Hypoalbuminemia in Dogs
When the levels of albumin in a dog’s blood serum are abnormally low, it is said to have hypoalbuminemia. A protein formed in the liver and carried into the blood, albumin is responsible for regulating blood volume by controlling pressure in the blood compartment. It is also important for retaining fluid in the vascular compartment. Therefore, a deficiency of albumin can pose grave risks for a dog, including dangerous fluid buildup.
Hypoalbuminemia has not been found to occur at any particular age. Moreover, there are no apparent breed or gender predilections.
Symptoms and Types
- Abdominal distention
- Diarrhea and/or vomiting
- Difficulty breathing
- Swollen limbs
- Generalized swelling
- Chronic liver disease: chronic hepatitis; cirrhosis
- Inadequate fluid or food intake – malnutrition/malassimilation
- Amyloidosis (insoluble proteins are deposited in organs)
- Glomerulonephritis (a primary or secondary immune-mediated renal disease)
- Lymphangiectasia (an intestinal disease of dogs)
- Severe inflammatory bowel disease
- Histoplasmosis (fungal disease)
- Oozing sores on the skin
- Chronic severe blood loss
- Repeated large volume of fluid in the abdomen
- Inflammatory effusions:
- Pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas)
- Peritonitis (inflammation of the lining of the abdomen)
- Chylous effusions (milky bodily fluid consisting of lymph and emulsified fats flowing into cavities where it is not intended to be)
- Pyothorax (infection in the chest).
- Vasculopathies (diseases of the blood vessels)
- Immune mediated
- Infectious: tick fever, infectious canine hepatitis, sepsis syndrome (infection of the entire body)
Because there are so many possible causes for this condition, your veterinarian will most likely use differential diagnosis. This process is guided by deeper inspection of the apparent outward symptoms, ruling out each of the more common causes until the correct disorder is settled upon and can be treated appropriately.
Before your veterinarian can determine an effective treatment plan, the underlying cause of the low albumin count in the blood stream will need to be conclusively identified. For example, if the cause is severe liver disease, your dog may have all of the symptoms listed. A complete blood analysis and urinalysis will help your doctor to zero in on the cause. Chest and abdominal X-rays may also be required, as well as ultrasound and liver and kidney biopsies.
Your dog’s treatment will be dictated by the cause of the low albumin counts. Your dog may need to be hospitalized initially for treatment. If there is a fluid buildup in the chest, for instance, a chest tube may be inserted to relieve some of the buildup. Intravenous fluids may be required as well. Likewise, the type of medication prescribed will depend on the underlying cause of the albumin deficiency.
Your veterinarian may prescribe physical therapy to include walks in order to improve drainage of peripheral swelling. A specific diet will also be planned once your dog is able to eat normally again.
Living and Management
Your veterinarian will need to see your dog frequently in the early stages of treatment to monitor body weight and fluid buildup, and to take blood samples and monitor albumin concentrations. Making sure that the heart is functioning properly, and recovering from any stress that occurred as a result of the albumin disorder, is also essential.
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