Lymphangiectasia in dogs is relatively common, though seems to affect certain breeds more than others. Those unlucky breeds include Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier, Yorkshire Terrier, Norwegian Lundehund, Rottweiler and Basenji. It’s less common in cats and even rarer in humans. My own dog Jake is a sufferer so I thought I would write this article in the hope that it helps anyone else who might have a dog with the same condition.
Lymphangiectasia in Dogs – Definition and Symptoms
Whilst the word itself is far from simple the condition is simply a dilation of lymph vessels that takes place in the intestines of dogs. Lymphangiectasia in dogs can be either a primary or secondary condition. By primary a vet would mean that it is as a result of a congenital defect of the lymphatic vessels. When the condition is referred to as a secondary condition it would mean that a process is causing a lymphatic obstruction. It results in a low blood proteins and fluid buildup and retention which can result in swelling. Another visible sign would normally be diarrhea. Those dogs who have had the condition for a longer term could also experience weight loss.
Lymphangiectasia in Dogs – Diagnosis and Treatment
If you dog is showing any of the symptoms associated with Lymphangiectasia, your vet would normally seek to have a biopsy of the intestines. They would be looking for the following to support their suspicion of Lymphangiectasia.
- An unusually low protein level in the blood, known as Hypoproteinemia.
- Decreased blood lymphocytes (low level of white blood cells).
- Decreased cholesterol level.
Often you will find dogs that have the condition will also have a low calcium level. Besides the biopsy a vet could also use ultrasound scans that would reveal abnormalities in the intestines. Some of the symptoms could be similar as those for IBS (irritable bowel syndrome). The vet would use these tests to confirm which condition they were dealing with.
Once the results of tests come back positive for Lymphangiectasia the treatments would normally include:
- Different diet. Dogs will be put on a low fat diet but one that is high in calories and high quality proteins to help them keep their weight stable. Due to the low fat diet, certain fat soluble vitamin supplements may need to be given. Vitamins include K, E, D and A. If during diagnosis a low calcium level was noted, additional calcium will also be given.
- Corticosteroids may be prescribed to help suppress the immune system. They would normally be given to try and reduce inflammation.
- Antibiotics could be used to help treat bacterial overgrowth.
Lymphangiectasia in dogs is rarely cured but dogs who respond well to treatment can live a long life. It is usually fatal in dogs that do not respond to treatment.