Health Screening for Protein-Losing Enteropathy (PLE), Protein‑Losing Nephropathy (PLN), Renal Dysplasia (RD),
and Addison's Disease
Recommended by SCWTCA and its Researchers

Testing Protocols
During your Wheaten's annual health check, our veterinary researchers, Meryl Littman VMD DACVIM, Shelly Vaden DVM DACVIM, and David Williams ECVIM-CA/ACVIM, recommend owners test their Wheatens annually for evidence of PLE/PLN, RD, and/or Addison's Disease. Here is what you and your veterinarian should look for:

Quick Definitions

  • PLE & PLN:  Protein-Losing Enteropathy and Protein-Losing Nephropathy are syndromes characterized by a loss of proteins from the gastrointestinal tract (Protein-Losing Enteropathy - PLE) or the kidneys (Protein-Losing Nephropathy PLN).
  • RD:  Renal Dysplasia (RD) 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.

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Clinical Signs

Clinical signs of a disease are the things you can see or that your veterinarian may discover on his physical examination of your Wheaten. Remember, testing is important: in many conditions, clinical signs do not show up until well after tests may indicate 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
  • Diarrhea
  • 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 can be 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 nonspecific and can mimic those of multiple other medical disorders.

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Laboratory Tests Run By Your Vet

Your veterinarian can check for signs of these diseases with blood and urine tests. It is important the panels run by your vet test for everything listed here; not all routine blood and urine tests do, so you must make sure the ones listed here are run.

Blood and urine tests cannot predict whether a dog will develop these diseases. But they can determine whether or not a dog is now 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 should run the following tests:

  1. Biochemical profile, including:
    • Total protein (TP)
    • Albumin (Alb)
    • Globulin
    • Creatinine (Cr)
    • Blood Urea Nitrogen (BUN)
    • Cholesterol (Chol)
    • Sodium (Na)
    • Potassium (K+)
    • Phosphorus (Phos)
  2. Complete Blood Count
  3. Routine Urinalysis, including:
    • Specific gravity
    • Dipstick
    • Urinary sediment
  4. Urine Protein/Creatinine Ratio -or-
    MA test for microalbuminuria -or-
    ERD Health Screening
  5. Optional: Fecal API test through Texas A&M if suspicious of PLE

If you or your veterinarian suspect RD or Addison's, the following tests can be run:

  • Renal Dysplasia (RD):
    • Abdominal radiographs/Ultrasound
  • Addison's:
    • ACTH stimulation test

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Optional Test

The optional test below may be an early indicator of PLE. You can arrange for this test through your veterinarian at the same time you do your annual screening. Alternatively, you can take the samples at home and ship them for testing in a kit SCWTCA has developed. For information on the kit, please click on the link below:

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Diagnosing PLE/PLN/RD/Addison's

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
  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/Diarrhea Yes Yes Yes Yes
Ascites / Edema No Possibly Possibly No
Azotemia Yes Eventually No Possibly
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,
lymphangitis (I)

Other important lab findings:
RD PLE PLN1 Addison's2
  • Elevated creatinine
  • Elevated BUN
  • Eosinophilia
  • Lymphopenia
  • Low total protein
  • Elevated serum creatinine
  • Elevated BUN
  • Elevated Urine Protein Creatinine Ratio**
  • Elevated MA result**
    **Very important!
  • Elevated serum creatinine
  • Elevated BUN

Remember, diagnosis of PLE/PLN, RD, or Addison's is dependent on evaluating everything ... test results, clinical signs and symptoms — so do not assume one "bad" item means your dog has these diseases.

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What to do next?

  • Make sure you do testing 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 through the SCWTCA Endowment.
      NOTE: SCWTCA neither recommends nor endorses the tool but provides this information for your assistance.

If these results show any abnormalities, you and your veterinarian need to take immediate action.

  1. You: Contact your breeder immediately. He or she will want to know in order to help you and to take action on other dogs in their breeding program.
  2. Your veterinarian: Contact a local ACVIM-certified veterinarian. (

Updated 07/2016   (Posted 11/23/2017)

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