Health Tests Information for Veterinarians

Soft-Coated Wheaten Terriers have been found to have a higher frequency of certain serious diseases than other breeds.

The Key Veterinary Researchers recommend that owners test their Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers annually for evidence of:

A condensed information sheet on hereditary diseases and testing, by Dr Littman (July 2019) is avalable on this link (pdf opens in new tab)

A reminder to owners should be given that the dog should be ‘fasted’ (not eat eight hours before the blood test), otherwise spurious results may occur, but 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) SDMA    
  2. Complete Blood Count to include Cytopenias and Eosinophilia.

  3. Routine Urinalysis, including:
    • Specific gravity
    • Dipstick
    • Urinary sediment

  4. Urine Protein/Creatinine Ratio

If there is an indication of Protein loss, a pooled urine test could be undertaken, as follows:

Information for Vets - Pooled UPC:

UPC varies daily, so ask owners collect three samples, as below:

1. A sample first thing in the morning for 3 consecutive days. If first thing in the morning is not possible, then it should be about he same time each day for the three days.

2. The samples should be saved separately in the refrigerator.

3. The owner should take the 3 separate samples to the Vet

Note: the owner should NOT pool them in one jar.

Vet: Take 1ml from each sample, mix the 3ml together gently, and send off the 3 ml mixture for one UPC determination which will be an average result of those 3 days.

UPC on urine samples collected at the clinic are often higher than those collected at home, probably because of anxiety/stress and increased blood pressure at the clinic.

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

(In North America, your client may also ask you to run a urine test for Microalbumin using the MA Test through Antech Labs or the ERD Test available through IDEXX Labs; or arrange for a Fecal Alpha-1 Protease Inhibitor (Fecal API) test through the lab at Texas A & M University)

Further Reading:

Recommedations Concerning Protein Losing Nephropthy (PLN) in SCWT by Professor Meryl Littman August 2016 (pdf)

Standards of Care for Proteinuria by Dr Shelly L. Vaden on this link (pdf - opens in new tab)

Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) - IRiS website

Comparison between Urine Protein:Creatinine Ratios of Samples obtained from Dogs in Home and Hospital Settings. Use this link. M.E. Duffy, A. Specht, and R.C. Hill – J Vet Intern Med 2015;29:1029-1035

For further information and advice please contact:

Meryl Littman, VMD, DACVIM, Professor Emerita of Medicine (Clinician-Educator), University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, who led the research into PLN in Wheatens for decades, created “Recommendations Concerning Protein-Losing Nephropathy (PLN) in Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers".

Dr. Littman has retired from the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine but is available for paid consultations. Please contact her at merylitt@vet.upenn.edu

Shelly Vaden, DVM, PhD, DACVIM, Professor Internal Medicine, North Carolina State University is available for consultation ONLY with veterinarians. If you wish a consultation contact her at slvaden@ncsu.edu


Renal Dysplasia (RD)

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

Addison ’s

ACTH stimulation test


Note the differences and similarities between these diseases.

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 laboratory 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 evaluating everything – test results, clinical signs and symptoms – so do not assume one “bad” item means your dog has these diseases.


Dr Shelly Vaden, ACVIM, North Carolina State University and Dr Meryl Littman, ACVIM (Retired), University of Pennsylvania state that:

“Research suggests that any dog with UPC ratio in excess of 0.4 and no evidence of urinary tract infection should be closely monitored for the development of glomerular disease. This finding should be of particular concern in any breed of dog that is known to have familial glomerular diseases, such as the Wheaten Terrier.”


Abnormal results

It is strongly recommended that owners should make contact with the breeder, so that positive steps can be taken to inform owners of litter mates and/or progeny.


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

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