Health Tests – Information for Owners:
(information for Veterinarians can be found on this page.)
The key researchers recommend these testing protocols are for healthy companion dogs as well as dogs being bred from. Owners should test their Wheatens annually. Early warning changes of PLE, PLN and RD may be noted on the annual laboratory screening test results - don’t wait until your dog shows outward signs of illness.
In the absence of symptoms or health problems, annual health testing is reccomended starting at one year of age to pick up early warning changes before your dog shows outward signs of illness and to get a baseline for future comparisons should your dog become ill.
A condensed information sheet on hereditary diseases and testing, by Dr Littman (July 2019) is available on this link (pdf opens in new tab)
PLE & PLN are syndromes characterised by the loss of proteins from the gastrointestinal tract (PLE); or the kidneys (PLN).
RD – Renal Dysplasia is the abnormal development of the kidney. This malformation can result in early renal failure.
Addison’s Disease - Addison’s Disease (Hypoadrenocorticism) is the insufficient production and secretion of hormones (glucocorticoids,
mineralocorticoids) by the adrenal gland cortex
Clinical signs of a disease are the things you can see or that your veterinarian may discover on his/her physical examination of your Wheaten.
Testing is important:
In many conditions, clinical signs do not show up until well after tests may show signs of the disease. Also, many clinical signs of one disease can also be signs of another.
Increased water consumption
Increased urination (dilute urine)
Possibly prone to urinary tract infection
Decreased appetite, vomiting, weight loss
Ascites, edema, pleural effusion
Increased water consumption
Increased urination (less common)
Thromboembolic phenomena & hypertension (less common)
Decreased appetite, vomiting, weight loss
Inability to handle stress
Slow heart rate
1PLE 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.
2 The clinical signs of Addison’s Disease are often non-specific and can mimic those of multiple other medical disorders.
see also pages on Hereditary Diseases
A genetic test is now available for PLN - further details on the Genetic testing pages
Laboratory Tests at your Vet:
These protocols are for healthy companion dogs.
The following tests are recommended for adult dogs (after 12-18 months of age) and should be undertaken annually as well as before any mating(s).
Blood and urine tests cannot predict whether a dog will develop these diseases. But they can determine whether or not a dog is clear of signs of disease and establish baseline values for future comparison.
Early detection can offer more choices for treatment and can often provide longer and better quality of life.
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.
Your Wheaten should be ‘fasted’ (not eat eight hours before the blood test), otherwise spurious results may occur. Important - drinking water should be available at all times.
Biochemical Profile to include:
||Blood Urea Nitrogen (BUN)
|Total protein (TP)
Complete Blood Count to include Cytopenias and Eosinophilia.
Routine Urinalysis, including:
Urine Protein/Creatinine Ratio, please go to the Veterinarians protocol page for information regarding
‘Pooled UPC’ (or a MA test for microalbuminuria in USA)
PLN Testing - new recommedations from Professor Meryl Littman August
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
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.
Source: 1999 ACVIM PROCEEDINGS: Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier PLE-PLN; Meryl P. Littman VMD DACVIM, Philadelphia PA
Other important lab findings:
Remember: diagnosis of PLE/PLN, RD, 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.
If Your Dog’s Testing Shows Abnormalities:
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 PLE, PLN, RD and Addison’s disease are often part of a veterinarian’s standard practice. If you or your vet needs additional resources concerning PLN or another kidney disease contact:
What to do next?
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 email@example.com
The International Renal Interest Society (IRIS) have published consensus guidelines on the treatment of Renal Disease.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
If the blood/urinalysis tests confirm abnormalities, you and your vet need to take immediate 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 – Please contact a Specialist in your area or a Key Researcher.
Make sure you test every year and have your veterinarian compare results.
Keep a copy of the results in a file at home so you can always refer back to them or provide them to a new veterinarian if you move.
Some people keep a spreadsheet on their computer with all the test results. The Watchdog Health Tracker is available in the UK via WHI and is available in the USA through
the SCWT Endowment Fund. An example of the Health Tracker can be found on this page.
WHI would like to thank: Dr Allenspach, Dr Littman and Dr Vaden and the ©Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier Club of America (SCWTCA – visit www.scwtca.org)
for their kind permission to reproduce this information.