Juvenile Renal Disease
By Susan L Fleisher, firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com Copyright 1996, all rights reserved.
Table of Contents
* Breeds Affected by Juvenile Renal Disease
* Symptoms and Diagnosis
* Current Research
In January of 1990, I had my twenty one month old Standard Poodle puppy euthanised. She was one of three puppies in
a litter of eleven to die of Juvenile Renal Disease (JRD). All three of the puppies with the disease appeared healthy, and
grew normally until clinical signs appeared at ten months in one, and twenty months in the other two. She died two weeks after
being diagnosed. The disease is devastating. The prognosis is dismal. Nobody expects to lose a puppy of that age.
Breeds Affected by Juvenile Renal Disease
Despite the fact that several articles on Juvenile Renal Disease and Familial Renal Disease were published in veterinary
journals in the 1970s, and many others have been published since that time, on JRD in Dobermans Pinschers, Alaskan Malamutes,
Norwegian Elkhounds, Samoyeds, Standard Poodles, and Golden Retrievers, most individual cases of JRD are treated by owners
and veterinarians as isolated occurrences rather than as the manifestation of a genetic disease. The type of renal disease,
also called Renal Dysplasia, from which my puppy died, is also seen in Airedale Terriers, Alaskan Malamutes, Bedlington Terriers,
Boxers, Bulldogs, Chow Chows, Great Danes, Great Pyrenees, Irish Wolfhounds, Keeshonds, King Charles Spaniels, Miniature Schnauzers,
Old English Sheepdogs, Swedish Foxhounds, Shiz Tzus, Lhasa Apsos, Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers, Portuguese Water Dogs, and
Yorkshire Terriers. It is just recently being seen in Golden Retrievers, a breed in which it had not before been recognized
as a familial disease. Other types of genetic renal disease are also well known in Rottweilers, Shar Peis, Miniature Poodles,
Cairn Terriers, Welsh Corgis,Pekingese, Shetland Sheep Dogs, Collies, Beagles, Basenjis, Bull Terriers and Cocker Spaniels,
among others. Similar forms of genetic renal diseases may have different modes of inheritance in different breeds. Other forms
of familial and congenital renal diseases seen in the breeds listed above include Glomerulopathy, Amyloidosis, Polycystic
kidneys, and Fanconi-like syndrome.
Early symptoms of Juvenile Renal Disease include drinking copious amounts of water, something that might not be readily
apparent in a house with more than one dog, frequent urination, and dilute urine which has little color or odor. Some affected
puppies leak urine, many do not. Often a puppy owner's earliest complaint is about the difficulty of housebreaking a puppy
later discovered to have JRD. The volume of water consumed, and, in some puppies,leakage of urine can make housebreaking a
formidable task. As the disease progresses, vomiting, weight loss, anorexia, lethargy, and muscle weakness are seen. There
is sometimes a chemical odor to the breath as a result of metabolic waste not being excreted by the kidneys.
In breeds in which juvenile renal diseases are seen, symptoms may be noted as early as a few weeks after birth;
and affected puppies are almost without exception symptomatic before two years of age. Some puppies fail to thrive: most grow
normally until symptoms appear. Puppies with renal dysplasia may appear clinically normal for extended periods of time before
developing signs of chronic renal failure. The rate at which renal dysplasia progresses to overt renal failure depends on
the severity of the initial renal lesions. Dogs commonly do not exhibit clinical signs of renal failure until less than 25%
of renal function remains. A dog with renal dysplasia affecting only one kidney may be symptom free, and the dog may live
a normal lifetime.
If a dog under two years of age is found to have an elevated BUN (blood urea nitrogen) and creatinine, and significant
protein in the urine, as indicated by an increased urine protein:creatinine ratio, JRD should be strongly suspected. Abdominal
palpation by a veterinarian may reveal small irregularly shaped kidneys. An ultrasound can be a useful diagnostic tool, since
the kidneys are often atrophied and underdeveloped. It must be kept in mind, however, that kidneys from affected dogs may
be normal size.
The most accurate method for diagnosing JRD is a wedge biopsy from one kidney taken any time after the second month
of life, or a histopathologic exam after death. A biopsy or autopsy of a puppy less than two months of age would not be fruitful,
since the normally immature kidneys cannot be distinguished from those affected by JRD. The slides should be examined by an
experienced pathologist. There are a number of pathologists who have a considerable interest in this disease. It is not reasonable
to expect most puppy owners who are not breeders, to agree to a wedge biopsy, since a more accurate diagnosis will not affect
the treatment or prognosis, and since the necessary anesthesia is not without risk.
If the reduction in renal function is identified early, when only increased water consumption and urination are
evident, medical management can be instituted immediately. Although the renal damage is not reversible, the quality and length
of the puppy's life may be improved by early treatment.
Treatments for the symptoms of JRD include a low protein and low phosphorus prescription diet, such as Hill's K/D.
The predominant effect of the low protein diet is to minimize production of uremic toxins so that the patient feels better.
Low protein diets may help extend life in dogs. Phosphorus is more important in this regard, since high phosphorus accelerates
renal failure, and restricted phosphorus slows it down. K/D is low in phosphorus, so it remains a good food for dogs in this
condition. In addition to diet, IV fluids can be administered to correct disturbances created by the retention of uremic toxins.
Epogen can be prescribed to treat the anemia of chronic renal failure, resulting in improving the quality, and probably the
length of life. Kidney dialysis for dogs is offered at several veterinary medical sites. The University of California, Davis,
Veterinary Medical School is performing kidney transplants, but transplanted kidneys in dogs are commonly rejected, and involve
an extraordinary expense and commitment. UC Davis will only do a renal transplant if the red cell cross matching and blood
type is a perfect match. and if the tissue typing is also a perfect match. One of four healthy littermates of an affected
puppy may offer such a match.
George Lees, DVM of Texas A & M University is currently doing research on Juvenile Renal Disease in Cocker
Spaniels. Both VetGen, in Michigan, and the Canine Genome Project at the University of California, Berkeley, are searching
for the gene marker(s) for the Juvenile Renal Disease seen in Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers.
Although progress is being made, waiting for DNA testing to become readily available is not a feasible solution
to the problems of many genetic diseases. Selectively breeding away from carriers now is the only responsible action. In some
instances, careful breeders have succeeded in largely eradicating some genetic disorders from their breeds. Success depends
on a number of factors. Every puppy buyer must be encouraged to report any major illness back to the breeder. Breeders must
have a clear understanding of the modes of transmission of genetic disorders that affect their breeds. Known carriers as well
as possible carriers, (littermates and offspring of those discovered to be carriers) must be conscientiously kept out of the
gene pool, or used very judiciously. A method of communication among breeders must be established.
Clearly, an open registry such as the open registry begun in July, l992 for Sebaceous Adenitis (SA) in Standard
Poodles (this disease also occurs in other breeds) is an important step forward and an invaluable resource. Open registries
as well as research databases in many canine diseases are being established at the Genetic Disease Control For Animals (GDC)
in Davis, California. In Europe, open registries have made it possible for careful breeders to greatly reduce the number of
cases of some genetic disorders.
An open registry would include the names of carriers of the disease as well as the names of dogs who are clear,
those who when bred to a carrier did not produce any cases of the disease in a litter of significant size. Obviously, the
early onset of Juvenile Renal Disease allows carriers to be identified much sooner than does a disease which manifests itself
later in life.
Kruger, J.M., Osborne, C.A., et al. : Congenital and Hereditary Disorders of the Kidney. Veterinary Pediatrics
Dogs & Cats from Birth to Six Months., 2nd edition. (J.D. Hoskins, ed.) W.B.Saunders, Philadelphia, Pa, 1995: pp 401-406.
DiBartola Stephen P. et al: Familial Renal disease in Dogs and Cats. Textbook of Veterinary Internal Medicine.
(S.J. Ettinger, & E.C. Feldman, ed) W.B. Saunders, Philadelphia, Pa. 1995:pp 1796-1801.
Willis, Malcolm B: Genetics of the Dog. Howell Book House, New York, NY, 1989;p 356.
GDC, P.O. Box 222, Davis CA 95617. telephone or fax 419 735-5818
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