How do you treat low protein in dogs? A Complete Guide

What is protein-losing enteropathy?

The word “enteropathy” means any disease of the intestinal system.

Protein-losing enteropathy (PLE) is not a specific disease, but is described as a group of diseases that cause the loss of proteins from the bloodstream into the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Primary GI disease, heart disease, and diseases of the lymphatic system can all cause PLE.

When the body is functioning normally, plasma proteins that end up in the GI tract are broken down and re-absorbed by the body. When disease occurs, protein loss may exceed protein manufacturing by the body. This is called “hypoproteinemia.” When hypoproteinemia is severe, fluid may leak from the circulatory system in to the abdomen, chest, or out of the tiny blood vessels in the limbs, causing swelling of the legs.

What is protein losing enteropathy in dogs?

Protein-losing enteropathy (PLE) refers to an excessive loss of protein from the bloodstream in the intestinal tract. The word “enteropathy” means any disease of the intestinal system. Protein losing enteropathy is not a specific disease but rather a syndrome associated with several gastrointestinal (GI) diseases in dogs that result in a loss of protein from the intestines.

Normally, small amounts of protein leak out of the blood vessels as they pass through the intestines; these leaked plasma proteins are broken down and then reabsorbed by the body and used to make more proteins. With PLE, the mucosal layer that lines the inner surface of the intestine is compromised, allowing more protein-rich fluid to leak out than the body can replace. PLE can lead to a state of hypoproteinemia, a condition where there is an abnormally low level of protein in the blood.

There are a number of diseases that can damage the intestines sufficiently to cause this extra protein loss. Primary gastrointestinal disease, heart disease and diseases of the lymphatic system can all cause PLE.

PLE in dogs can affect any breed or age, but some breeds show a predisposition for certain disorders linked to PLE. These breeds include the Soft-coated Wheaten Terrier, Basenji, Yorkshire Terrier, Shar Peis and Norwegian Lundehund. However, no genetic predisposition has yet been proven.

How do you treat low protein in dogs?

Causes of Low Blood Albumin in Dogs

Hypoalbuminemia can result as a decrease in the ingestion of protein, a loss of protein through the gut or kidney, or by a failure of the liver to produce protein (therefore causing blood albumin levels to decline). These complications can result from the following underlying causes:

  • Malnutrition (thus a decrease in ingestion of the protein)
  • Cancer or inflammatory bowel disease (produces a loss of protein)
  • Protein losing enteropathy as a result of parasites, gastritis, IBD, lymphangectasia etc.
  • Liver or kidney disease
  • Malabsorption of nutrients from food
  • Severe infection
  • Pancreatitis
  • Heavy blood loss
  • Fungal disease
  • Large volume of fluid in the abdomen (chronic)
  • Burns that are severe, resulting in an albumin loss from the skin.
  • How To Make Low Protein Dog Treats

    Protein-losing enteropathy (PLE) is a syndrome characterized by excessive loss of plasma proteins, particularly albumin, into the gastrointestinal (GI) tract.1 Most often, protein loss reflects conditions in the small intestine that interfere with digestion and/or absorption of nutrients, such as increased mucosal permeability, lymphatic obstruction or rupture, and mucosal ulceration or erosion.2 In adult dogs, the major diseases associated with PLE include primary GI disorders, such as intestinal lymphangiectasia, severe chronic enteropathy and intestinal lymphoma,1,3 although any GI disease can lead to intestinal protein loss if it is severe enough.3,4

    Dogs with PLE typically have a severe negative protein and energy balance that makes nutritional support essential.1 Diet modification is one component of an aggressive, multimodal approach to the therapeutic management of dogs with protein-losing enteropathy.

    Protein-losing enteropathy in dogs is associated with lymphangiectasia in about 50% of cases and with lymphoplasmacytic enteritis, the most common form of inflammatory chronic enteropathy, in about 66%.5

    “An important part of your dog’s treatment will be a special diet, one that is low in fat and with highly digestible carbohydrate and hydrolyzed or novel protein. This new food will be the only food your dog should eat, and you will need to use the food as treats, too. [Dog’s name] will need to be fed small, frequent meals initiallyꟷ3 to 4 meals a dayꟷto help improve absorption of nutrients and help control diarrhea.”

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