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Why Renal Amyloidosis In Dogs And Cats Can Cause Kidney Failure

An Idiopathic Kidney Disease

By Meredith Alling. April 06, 2014 | See Comments

A Dog Laying His Head On A Cat

Renal amyloidosis can cause a build up within the kidney and lead to kidney failure. The causes of this disease is unknown and difficult to pinpoint. Learn about the potential causes, symptoms, and treatment options available here.

Amyloidosis is a condition wherein a waxy protein substance called amyloid is deposited in a pet’s organs or tissues. In the case of renal amyloidosis, the protein substance is deposited in the kidney and interrupts normal functioning, often leading to kidney failure. Read on to learn what you need to know about renal amyloidosis in dogs and cats.

Causes of Renal Amyloidosis

In many pets, renal amyloidosis is idiopathic, meaning that the cause is not known. However, familial (or hereditary) amyloidosis seems to occur in certain dog and cat breeds, including the Shar-Pei, Beagle, English Foxhound, Abyssinian cat, and Siamese cat.

The condition can also be a reaction to chronic inflammation, a chronic infection (including a parasitic infection), immune-mediated diseases (those caused by an abnormal immune system response), cancer, and other health conditions.

Regardless of the cause, renal amyloidosis can wreak havoc on the kidney (or kidneys). The amyloid deposits surround and slowly destroy kidney cells, and because the kidney is an organ that cannot replace or regenerate cells, the damage is often irreversible. Kidney failure is likely to occur once a certain number of cells, and the structures they make up (filtering units called nephrons), have been destroyed.

Symptoms of Renal Amyloidosis

Symptoms that may be seen in dogs and cats include:

  • Increased thirst and urination (due to protein loss in the urine)
  • Dehydration
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Vomiting
  • Ascites (fluid in the abdomen)
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Edema (swelling, often in limbs, joints, and face)

Treatment for Renal Amyloidosis

Your veterinarian will diagnose renal amyloidosis through a discussion of symptoms, a physical examination, and a series of tests including complete blood count and chemistry, urinalysis, x-ray, and/or ultrasound to evaluate the structure of the kidney, and a kidney biopsy. The biopsy is typically the final word in diagnosing renal amyloidosis.

Treatment will depend on the cause and severity of the condition. Common options include:

  • Treating any underlying condition -- such as chronic infection -- that may have caused renal amyloidosis.

  • Pets suffering from kidney failure as a result of renal amyloidosis may require hospitalization to reverse dehydration with fluid therapy. Following stabilization, treatment for kidney failure may include medications, supplements, and a special diet.

While certain medications may be prescribed to treat kidney failure or the complications
of renal amyloidosis, never give your pet any medication without first consulting your veterinarian. Medications that require normal kidney function to work may be harmful to a pet suffering from a kidney condition.

Because renal amyloidosis is sometimes inherited, do not breed affected pets.

More on Kidney Health

Prescription Diets For Dogs With Kidney Disease
Food To Treat Kidney Disease In Cats And Dogs
Warning Signs Of Kidney Failure In Cats

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Renal Amyloidosis at a glance

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  • 1Renal amyloidosis is a condition characterized by waxy protein deposits in the kidney
  • 2These deposits can damage the kidney and cause kidney failure
  • 3Renal amyloidosis is either inherited, idiopathic (cause unknown), or the result of a medical condition
  • 4Symptoms include increased thirst and urination, loss of appetite, weight loss, and more