Health Tests for Adult Dogs

Health Tests – Information for Owners:

(Veterinarian information can be found on this page.)

The Key Veterinary Researchers recommend owners test their Wheatens annually. This gives a ‘snapshot’ for you and your Veterinarian on the general health of your Wheaten, but more specifically it can indicate if your Wheaten has any evidence of the hereditary diseases; Protein Losing Enteropathy (PLE), Protein Losing Nephropathy (PLN), Renal Dysplasia (RD) and Addison’s Disease which can affect the breed.

Quick Definitions:

  • PLE & PLN are syndromes characterised by the loss of proteins from the gastrointestinal tract (PLE); or the kidneys (PLN).
  • RD – Renal Dysplasia is the abnormal development of the kidney. This malformation can result in early renal failure.
  • Addison’s Disease - Addison’s Disease (Hypoadrenocorticism) is the insufficient production and secretion of hormones (glucocorticoids, mineralocorticoids) by the adrenal gland cortex

Clinical Signs:

Clinical signs of a disease are the things you can see or that your veterinarian may discover on his/her physical examination of your Wheaten.

Testing is important:

In many conditions, clinical signs do not show up until well after tests may show signs of the disease. Also, many clinical signs of one disease can also be signs of another.

RD PLE PLN1 Addison's2
  • Increased water consumption
  • Increased urination (dilute urine)
  • "Poor doer"
  • Decreased appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Possibly prone to urinary tract infection
  • Listlessness/ depression
  • Decreased appetite, vomiting, weight loss
  • Inability to handle stress
  • Sudden collapse
  • Slow heart rate

1PLE and PLN are difficult to diagnose. The initial stages of the disease may be mistaken for liver, glandular or other enteric or kidney diseases. Wheatens with PLE and/or PLN may have serious thromboembolic events (such as pulmonary embolism) before symptoms or renal failure start, even before there is increased serum creatinine or BUN.

2 The clinical signs of Addison’s Disease are often non-specific and can mimic those of multiple other medical disorders.

see also pages on Hereditary Diseases

A genetic test is now available for PLN - further details on the Genetic testing pages

Laboratory Tests at your Vet:

The following tests are recommended for adult dogs (after 15-18 months of age) and should be undertaken annually as well as before any mating(s).

Blood and urine tests cannot predict whether a dog will develop these diseases. But they can determine whether or not a dog is clear of signs of disease and establish baseline values for future comparison.

Early detection can offer more choices for treatment and can often provide longer and better quality of life.

Your Veterinarian can check for signs of diseases and can undertake blood and urine tests ‘in-house’, or they may use an external Laboratory service.

Your Wheaten should be ‘fasted’ (not eat eight hours before the blood test), otherwise spurious results may occur. Important - drinking water should be available at all times.

Biochemical Profile to include:

  1. Albumin (Alb) ALK Phos ALT Blood Urea Nitrogen (BUN)
    Calcium (Ca) Cholesterol (Chol) Creatinine (Cr) Globulin
    Glucose Phosphorus (Phos) Potassium (K+) Sodium (Na)
    Total protein (TP)      
  2. Complete Blood Count to include Cytopenias and Eosinophilia.
  3. Routine Urinalysis, including:
    • Specific gravity
    • Dipstick
    • Urinary sediment
  4. Urine Protein/Creatinine Ratio, please go to the Veterinarians protocol page for information regarding ‘Pooled UPC’

PLN Testing - new recommedations from Professor Meryl Littman August 2016 (pdf)


North America only: recommended but optional
  • ERD or MA test for microalbuminuria
  • Fecal API test

If you or your Veterinarian suspects RD or Addison’s, the following tests can be undertaken:

Renal Dysplasia (RD)

  • Abdominal radiographs/Ultrasound
  • Final confirmation of RD, kidney biopsy (wedge, not Tru-cut).

 Addison ’s disease

  • ACTH stimulation test

Optional Tests ( North America only):

The two optional tests below may be early indicators of PLE and PLN. You can arrange for these through your veterinarian at the same time you do your annual screening. Alternatively, you can take the samples at home and ship them for testing in a kit SCWTCA has developed. For information on these, please click on the links below:

Diagnosing: RD; PLN & PLE & Addison’s Disease

These diseases can be difficult to diagnose and can be confused with each other. Here are some of the similarities and differences.

RD PLN PLE Addison's
Age of Onset <1-3 yrs Mean ~ 6 yrs Mean ~ 4.5 yrs Young (in general)
Sex Predilection None noted Female: male=1.6 Female: male=1.7 Female (in general)
Polyuria/ Polydipsia Yes Only 25% had PU/PD No, unless on steroids Yes
Vomiting/Diarrhoea Yes Yes Yes Yes
Ascites / Edema No Possibly Possibly No
Azotaemia Yes Eventually No Possibly (pre-renal)
Kidney Size Small May be normal Normal Normal
Hypoalbuminaemia No Yes Yes Possibly (melaena)
Hypoglobulinemia No No Yes Possibly (melaena)
Hypercholesterolaemia No Yes Hypocholesterolaemia No
Low Na/K ratio Not noted Rarely (~10%) Rarely (~10%) Yes
Urine Specific Gravity Isosthenuria Mean 1.023 Mean 1.033 Low (medullary washout)
Proteinuria None or mild Yes No No
Histopathology K = kidney I = intestine Fetal glomeruli, Fetal mesenchyme (K) Glomerulonephritis, glomerulosclerosis (K) IBD, lymphangiectasia, lymphangitis (I)  

Source: 1999 ACVIM PROCEEDINGS: Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier PLE-PLN; Meryl P. Littman VMD DACVIM, Philadelphia PA

Other important lab findings:

RD PLE PLN Addison's
  • Elevated creatinine
  • Elevated BUN
  • Eosinophilia
  • Lymphopenia
  • Low total protein
  • Elevated serum creatinine
  • Elevated BUN
  • Elevated Urine Protein Creatinine Ratio**

    **Very important!

  • Elevated serum creatinine
  • Elevated BUN
  • Remember: diagnosis of PLE/PLN, RD, or Addison’s is dependent on all test results, clinical signs and symptoms – do not assume one “bad” item means your dog has any of these diseases.

    What to do next?
    • Make sure you test every year and have your veterinarian compare results.
    • Keep a copy of the results in a file at home so you can always refer back to them or provide them to a new veterinarian if you move.
    • Some people keep a spreadsheet on their computer with all the test results. The Watchdog Health Tracker is available in the UK via WHI and is available in the USA through the SCWT Endowment Fund. An example of the Health Tracker can be found on this page.

    If these results show any abnormalities, you and your vet need to take immediate action.

    • You - Contact your breeder immediately, he/she will want to know in order to help you and to take action on other dogs in their breeding program.
    • Your veterinarian – Please contact a Specialist in your area.

    WHI would like to thank: Dr Allenspach, Dr Littman and Dr Vaden and the ©Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier Club of America (SCWTCA – visit for their kind permission to reproduce this information.

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