Health Tests for Adult Dogs

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)

Quick Definitions:

  • 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:

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.

RD PLE PLN1 Addison's2

Increased water consumption

Increased urination (dilute urine)

"Poor doer"

Decreased appetite

Vomiting

Possibly prone to urinary tract infection

Vomiting

Diarrhoea

Weight loss

Ascites

Edema

Pleural effusion

Listlessness/ depression

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

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:

Albumin (Alb) ALK Phos ALT Blood Urea Nitrogen (BUN)
Calcium (Ca) Cholesterol (Chol) Creatinine (Cr) Globulin
Glucose Phosphorus (Phos) Potassium (K+) Sodium (Na)
Total protein (TP) SDMA    

Complete Blood Count to include Cytopenias and Eosinophilia.

Routine Urinalysis, including:

  • Specific gravity

  • Dipstick

  • Urinary sediment

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 2016 (pdf)


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
Histopathology 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

Eosinophilia

Lymphopenia

Low total protein

Elevated serum creatinine

Elevated BUN

Elevated Urine Protein Creatinine Ratio (Very important)

Elevated serum creatinine

Elevated BUN

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:

  • 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 merylitt@vet.upenn.edu

  • 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 slvaden@ncsu.edu

What to do next?

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.

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