Health Tests for Adult Dogs

(Veterinarians - full testing information is on this page)

Information for Owners:

Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers (SCWT) have a predisposition to certain hereditary diseases, so the Key Veterinary Researchers recommend that you perform an annual health screen on your Wheaten.
This gives a ‘snap-shot’ of your dog's general health for you and your Veterinarian, but more specifically it can indicate evidence of hereditary diseases.

Quick Definitions of hereditary diseases:
  • RD – Renal Dysplasia is the abnormal development of the kidney. This malformation can result in early renal failure (birth to three years).

  • PLE & PLN are syndromes characterised by the loss of proteins from the gastrointestinal tract (PLE); or the kidneys (PLN).

  • Addison’s Disease - Addison’s Disease (Hypoadrenocorticism) is the insufficient production and secretion of hormones (glucocorticoids, mineralocorticoids) by the adrenal gland cortex

Early detection can offer more choices for treatment which can often result in longer and better quality of life. Don’t wait until your dog shows outward signs of illness.

Annual health testing is recommended to start at about 15-18 months.

Blood and urine tests cannot predict if a dog will develop these diseases, but they can determine if a dog is clear of signs of disease and establish baseline values for future comparison.

Clinical Signs of a disease are the things you can see, or that your veterinarian may discover on a physical examination of your Wheaten.

Therefore testing is important as, with many conditions, clinical signs do not show up until well after tests show signs of the disease. Also,many clinical signs of one disease can also be those of another.

Key indicators of symptoms:
RD PLE PLN* Addison's**

Increased water consumption

Increased urination (dilute urine)

"Poor doer"

Decreased appetite


Possibly prone to urinary tract infection



Weight loss



Pleural effusion


Decreased appetite, vomiting, weight loss

Ascites, edema, pleural effusion

Increased water consumption

Increased urination (less common)

Thromboembolic phenomena & hypertension (less common)

Listlessness/ depression

Decreased appetite, vomiting, weight loss

Inability to handle stress

Sudden collapse

Slow heart rate


*PLE and PLN are difficult to diagnose. The initial stages of the disease may be mistaken for liver, glandular or other enteric or kidney diseases.

Wheatens with PLE and/or PLN may have serious thromboembolic events (such as pulmonary embolism) before symptoms or renal failure start, even before there is increased serum creatinine or BUN.

** The clinical signs of Addison’s Disease are often non-specific and can mimic those of multiple other medical disorders.

Laboratory Tests at your Vet:

Your Veterinarian can check for signs of diseases and can undertake blood and urine tests ‘in-house’, or they may use an external Laboratory service.

Before testing, your Wheaten should be ‘fasted’ (not eat eight hours before the test), otherwise spurious results may occur. Important - drinking water should be available at all times.

Your Vet should include:
  • Biochemical Profile
  • Complete Blood Count (CBC)
  • Full Urinalysis

(Please Note that Veterinarians information page has full details of these tests)

PLN-Associated Variant Genes test - further details on the Genetic testing pages

If you or your Veterinarian suspects RD or Addison’s, the following tests can be undertaken:

Renal Dysplasia (RD)
  • Abdominal radiographs/Ultrasound
  • Final confirmation of RD, kidney biopsy (wedge, not Tru-cut).
Addison ’s disease
  • ACTH stimulation test
Diagnosing: RD, PLN & PLE & Addison’s Disease

These diseases can be difficult to diagnose and can be confused with each other. Here are some of the similarities and differences.

RD PLN PLE Addison's
Age of Onset <1-3 yrs Mean ~ 6 yrs Mean ~ 4.5 yrs Young (in general)
Sex Predilection None noted Female: male=1.6 Female: male=1.7 Female (in general)
Polyuria / Polydipsia Yes Only 25% had PU/PD No, unless on steroids Yes
Vomiting/Diarrhoea Yes Yes Yes Yes
Ascites / Edema No Possibly Possibly No
Azotaemia Yes Eventually No Possibly (pre-renal)
Kidney Size Small May be normal Normal Normal
Hypoalbuminaemia No Yes Yes Possibly (melaena)
Hypoglobulinemia No No Yes Possibly (melaena)
Hypercholesterolaemia No Yes Hypocholesterolaemia No
Low Na/K ratio Not noted Rarely (~10%) Rarely (~10%) Yes
Urine Specific Gravity Isosthenuria Mean 1.023 Mean 1.033 Low (medullary washout)
Proteinuria None or mild Yes No No
K = kidney
I = intestine
Fetal glomeruli, Fetal mesenchyme (K) Glomerulonephritis, glomerulosclerosis (K) IBD, lymphangiectasia, lymphangitis (I)

Source: 1999 ACVIM PROCEEDINGS: Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier PLE-PLN; Meryl P. Littman VMD DACVIM, Philadelphia PA

Other important lab findings:

RD PLE PLN Addison's

Elevated creatinine

Elevated BUN



Low total protein

Elevated serum creatinine

Elevated BUN

Elevated Urine Protein Creatinine Ratio (Very important)

Elevated serum creatinine

Elevated BUN

Diagnosis of RD, PLE, PLN or Addison’s is dependent on all test results, clinical signs and symptoms – do not assume one “bad” item means your dog has any of these diseases.

Abnormal Results

If your Wheaten has abnormal test results do not panic. There are multiple causes besides genetic diseases why there may be abnormalities. In many cases, one lab result or even one set of results is insufficient for diagnosis. Your vet may wish to repeat testing in a few weeks to see what’s going on and to do additional testing to rule out other causes.

Treatment for RD, PLE, PLN and Addison’s disease are often part of a veterinarian’s standard practice.
If you or your vet needs additional resources concerning these diseases please contact:

  • Meryl Littman, VMD, DACVIM, Professor Emerita of Medicine (Clinician-Educator), University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, who led the research into PLN in Wheatens for decades, created “Recommendations Concerning Protein-Losing Nephropathy (PLN) in Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers” which you should give to your veterinarian.

    Dr Littman has retired, but is available for paid consultations, please contact her at this email

  • Shelly Vaden, DVM, PhD, DACVIM, Professor Internal Medicine, North Carolina State University is available for consultation ONLY with veterinarians. If you wish a consultation, please have your vet contact her at this email

  • The International Renal Interest Society (IRIS) have published consensus guidelines on the treatment of Renal Disease.

What to do next?

Should the blood/urinalysis tests confirm abnormalities, you and your vet need to take action.

  • You - Contact your breeder immediately, he/she will want to know in order to help you and to take action on other dogs in their breeding program.

  • Your veterinarian – contact a Veterinarian Specialist in your area or a Key Researcher.

  • If your Wheaten is diagnosed with a hereditary disease, then you you will be advised to test more frequently.

  • If your tests are normal continue to test every year and have your veterinarian compare results.

  • Keep a copy of the test results in a file at home. This could be a paper copy, or a spreadsheet on your computer.
    The *Watchdog Health Tracker is available in the UK (example on this page) and is available in the USA through the SCWTCA Endowment Inc.

  • Consider sharing your health & testing information with your respective breed club and also the SCWTCA Endowment Inc. Pedigree and Health Database, details on the SCWTCA page .
For further reading see pages on Hereditary Diseases

WHI would like to thank: Dr Littman, Dr Vaden and Dr Allenspach and the ©Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier Club of America (SCWTCA – visit for their kind permission to reproduce this information.

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