The kidneys are an important filtering organ in both humans and pets. Within the kidneys are thousands of filters called glomeruli that remove impurities from the body system. The kidneys are then responsible for absorbing important nutrients like glucose and electrolytes so that they can be separated from waste. Nutrients are delivered to body cells and waste gets excreted in urine.
An inflammation of the glomeruli is called Glomerulonephritis and this is caused when antibodies and antigens in our immune system get trapped in the glomeruli. The antibodies and antigens that are stuck in the glomeruli activate an immune defence response which causes the inflammation and damages the glomeruli. Often Glomerulonephritis is caused by another disease such as cancer or a bacterial infection but in many animals there is known obvious cause.
Symptoms and Diagnosis
The symptoms of Glomerulonephritis include swelling of the abdomen, paws, ankles, face and/or scrotum. In addition, you will notice an increase in your pet’s water consumption and consequently urine production. Weight loss, lethargy, and vomiting are also symptoms of Glomerulonephritis. More serious symptoms are also possible and loss of vision and difficulty breathing are two such symptoms.
Diagnosis of Glomerulonephritis is designed to specify that Glomerulonephritis is the cause of symptoms and to exclude other possible diseases. As such, diagnosing Glomerulonephritis can sometimes require a process of elimination. In fact, there are several diagnostic tests that are involved in identifying Glomerulonephritis. First a urinalysis is required to identify excess proteins in the urine. This is a common side effect of Glomerulonephritis. In addition, a complete blood count is carried out to look for anemia, inflammation, bacterial infection, or abnormal platelet levels. Veterinarians will also often conduct a serum biochemistry test to check for low protein levels and high cholesterol levels. Furthermore, tests for the protein/creatinine ratio in the urine are conducted to verify the severity of protein loss through urine. Blood pressure tests rule out hypertension. A biopsy of the kidney is the final diagnostic test conducted to conclusively determine that Glomerulonephritis is the cause of symptoms and to differentiate the diagnosis from other diseases of the kidney.
Whenever possible, treatment of Glomerulonephritis is centered on identifying the route cause of the inflammation. Cancers, infections, and other inflammatory diseases are often the main reason for the Glomerulonephritis. If possible, treatment of these underlying causes will eliminate the Glomerulonephritis. Still, in many cases, identifying the route cause of Glomerulonephritis is near impossible so treatment must involve other aspects.
Sometimes veterinarians will recommend immunosuppressive medication for your pet in order to stop the immune response that is causing the inflammation in the first place. Aspirin is also often recommended as it prevents clotting in the glomeruli. Diets low in protein and phosphorus are necessary for pets that have already entered kidney failure and low sodium diets are important for pets with high blood pressure. Also, omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to reduce the inflammation in the glomeruli. Finally, drugs like angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors are prescribed to reduce the amount of protein loss in the urine.