What causes low protein levels in dogs? A Comprehensive Guide

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.
  • Symptoms of Low Blood Albumin in Dogs

    Hypoalbuminemia usually develops alongside an accompanying condition and can mean there is liver or kidney damage, or an issue with the intestines. It can be a chronic problem, or can occur very quickly. Symptoms include:

  • Swelling of extremities, such as legs and paws
  • Vomiting
  • Weakness
  • Diarrhea
  • Distended abdomen
  • Breathing difficulty
  • Common Causes of Protein-Losing Enteropathy in Dogs

    Any intestinal disease can potentially result in protein-losing enteropathy in dogs, however, there are conditions in which there is an increased risk for protein loss. The most common causes of protein-losing enteropathy in dogs are infectious intestinal diseases.

    Viral infections such as canine parvoviral enteritis (parvo) cause severe diarrhea and damage along the intestine’s mucosal lining, resulting in severely compromised protein absorption and an increased rate of protein leakage. Dogs with severe parvovirus infection will eventually develop ascites or edema as albumin and globulin levels drop. Bacterial enteritis, such as spirochete infections, can also result in protein-losing enteropathy if left untreated.

    Tumors and cancer growing anywhere along the intestinal tract can also lead to protein-losing enteropathy in dogs. Intestinal malignancies, like lymphoma, can cause leakage of protein from blood vessels to the lumen or abdominal cavity. The presence of tumors can also hinder the proper absorption of protein molecules, leading to more protein loss.

    Intestinal parasites such as worms or protozoal organisms often cause diarrhea severe enough to result in protein leakage and compromised protein absorption.

    Anatomical changes such as intussusception (telescoping of intestinal segments) and obstruction are also reported to be causes of protein-losing enteropathy in dogs.

    Inflammatory conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) also cause protein-losing enteropathy in dogs. Chronic inflammatory response of the mucosal lining of the intestines leads to progressive damage, severe protein leakage, and improper nutrient absorption in dogs.

    Protein Losing Enteropathy in Veterinary Medicine

    Protein-losing enteropathy (PLE) in dogs is a condition that causes the loss of protein from the gastrointestinal (GI) tract due to intestinal problems. It’s not a specific disease, but rather a consequence of various diseases in the intestinal system. Even conditions that aren’t GI in nature, such as heart disease and illnesses affecting the lymphatic system can cause protein-losing enteropathy in dogs. Keep reading to learn more about PLE, including symptoms, diagnostic tools, and treatment options for dogs.