Australian Shepherd Health & Genetics Institute

Australian Shepherd Health & Genetics Institute

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What is glomerulonephritis?

Primary glomerulonephritis is an autoimmune disease targeting the filtering vessels of the kidneys (glomeruli).  It may also be secondary to toxic exposures or other diseases.

How do I know if my dog has glomerulonephritis?

In early stages dogs may be asymptomatic.  Affected dogs may exhibit weight loss, weakness, or abdominal fluid retention.  Advanced cases will exhibit signs of kidney failure.  Your veterinarian will do blood or urine tests and may use imaging to determine the cause of the disease.  If no underlying cause is found – termed “idiopathic” – the disease should be assumed to be autoimmune.

What does having glomerulonephritis mean for my dog?

If the disease is secondary, treating the underlying cause may help, provided the kidneys were not significantly damaged.  If the disease is primary, therapies aimed at limiting immune response will be used along with treatment of symptoms with medication and special diet.   This disease requires regular veterinary monitoring.  No changes in home-administered medications should be made without first consulting the treating veterinarian.

How common is glomerulonephritis in Aussies?

Very rare.  However, it is important to keep in mind that breeders should approach all chronic autoimmune disease as a single health concern; different types of autoimmune disease frequently occur in affected families.

Is glomerulonephritis inherited?

Yes.  All autoimmune diseases are genetically predisposed:  The dog must have the genes to get the disease, but not every dog with the genes will become ill.

Is there a screening or DNA test glomerulonephritis?

Not at this time.

What does glomerulonephritis mean for my breeding program?

Breeders should approach each autoimmune disease as part of an overall health and breeding issue because different autoimmune diseases frequently occur in an affected family.  See Autoimmune Disease & Breeding.