Hereditary Diseases - Questions and Answers

Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier health information refers to PLE and PLN as syndromes.

What is the difference between a Disease and a Syndrome?

Disease - illness or sickness often characterised by typical patient problems (symptoms) and physical findings (signs).

Syndrome - a combination of signs and symptoms that occur together

What is a sub-clinical disease?

A sub-clinical disease is an illness that stays below the surface of clinical detection. A sub-clinical disease has no recognisable clinical findings. It is distinct from a clinical disease which has signs and symptoms that can be recognised. Many diseases, including diabetes, hypothyroidism, and rheumatoid arthritis, can be sub-clinical before surfacing as clinical diseases Both PLE and PLN are sub-clinical diseases.

What is Protein Loss?

When a dog is losing protein into the urine or faeces there are several possible reasons. If the protein is being lost via the kidney (PLN) then damage to the glomeruli is the cause. If the protein is being lost from the intestine PLE) it is a result of either malabsorption or maldigestion

If my dog is diagnosed with RD, PLE or PLN what should I do?

If your dog is diagnosed with RD, PLE or PLN then ask your vet to contact a Veterinary Specialist in your area.

The Specialist should provide your vet with advice on testing and treatment and discuss with him/her a course of treatment and diet suitable for the dog.

What should I do if my dog is diagnosed with Addison's Disease?

Your vet and you can develop a diet and medication regime that, if followed, should allow your dog to lead a normal, active life

Does stress affect how my dog feels if it has RD, PLE, PLN or Addison's Disease?

Yes it does. Dogs should be maintained with a modified normal lifestyle. They will feel their best for the longest period of time if stress is managed and moderate exercise and play is provided.

Can a dog have RD and a Protein-losing disease at the same time?

A dog can have one or any combination of the diseases. Wheatens have been diagnosed with both RD and PLN and with PLN and PLE.

How do I know if my dog has PLN and not RD?

The kidneys of a dog with RD are quite different from a dog with PLN. The damage to the glomeruli in RD cases is, under microscopy, different to the damage shown with dogs with PLN. There are differences seen with blood chemistry and urinalysis (see Comparison Charts).

How can I find out if my dog has PLE?

PLE may be present in your dog long before clinical signs manifest, or urine and blood testing show protein loss. See Recommended Health Testing. An Endoscopic biopsy can be an additional aid to help confirm the diagnosis, this is the safest way as surgical biopsy can carry more risk.

How does my dog feel if he has PLE?

Since PLE can be a disease in which symptoms occur in mid to late life, we must assume that early stage PLE is not unpleasant for your dog.

When clinical signs occur the dog does feel some physical symptoms. These symptoms vary with each dog and with the progression of the disease.

Symptoms can include: chronic diarrhoea, vomiting, bloody stools, abdominal pain and weight loss. Your dog may have one or several of these symptoms or other symptoms. How many and which symptoms and the severity of the symptoms depends on the type and severity of the disease.

go to top

My dog hasn't had regular bouts of diarrhoea or vomiting, could it have PLE or PLN?

These are classic signs that something is wrong but they are by no means always seen. Vomiting and diarrhoea are only two of the many signs, which might indicate PLE and or PLN. The absence of such symptoms does not necessarily indicate the absence of hereditary disease.

My dog is middle-aged and appears healthy but could he still develop PLE or PLN?

Dogs as old as 14 and previously healthy have been diagnosed with PLE or PLN. Many of the older dogs are asymptomatic (do not show physical signs of the illness), only bloods, urinalysis and in some cases biopsy can tell if a dog is affected.

What is the point of testing, if my dog is going to get PLE or PLN it will still do so?

The outlook for dogs diagnosed with PLE and PLN is improving constantly due to ongoing research. Early diagnosis is essential; diet, medication, etc. can in many cases improve a dog's lifestyle and its longevity. Dogs have been known to survive years after diagnosis.

My puppy got sick at 7 months so will this be RD?

Protein-losing disease can occur at any age. Although in the SCWT, RD is more common between the ages 7 weeks to 3 years, protein losing disease can occur at any age.

Does a dog need a post-mortem before a definite diagnosis can be given?

Although post mortems can provide additional proof, a diagnosis can be made while the dog is still living by blood tests, urinalysis, wedge biopsy, ultrasound and endoscopy.

A lot of old dogs die of kidney disease - could it be just old age not PLN?

Changes in the kidney due to old age cannot be mistaken for those caused by PLN. Examination of the kidney in post mortem procedures will identify the distinct changes due to deterioration in old age from those caused by PLN.

My dog is very healthy and does not drink a lot, so it does not need to be tested?

A dog in the early stages of disease will not drink a lot. At this stage the dog is frequently in a state of 'compensation' where signs such as excessive drinking will not be apparent.

My dog is healthy and does not pass urine frequently so it does not need to be tested?

A dog in the early stages of disease will often not show obvious signs. This is not an indication that the dog is clear of hereditary disease.

Could my dog be a 'carrier' because it is a parent of a dog diagnosed with PLE or PLN?

There is no such certainty as we do not fully understand how PLE & PLN is inherited. For PLE the only way of being absolutely certain of whether a dog is a ‘carrier’ lies in the future with the identification of the gene(s) responsible. For PLN there is the PLN-Associated Variant Gene Test – please refer to the PLN page for further details.

Can I use my dog for breeding as a litter-mate has been diagnosed with a protein-losing disease?

There is no way of knowing at present if the litter-mate of a sibling affected with either RD or PLE is ‘safe’ to breed from or not. It might be wise not to breed from a litter mate of an affected animal but, as the mode of inheritance is not yet established; it is not certain if every other dog in a litter could pass on the deleterious mutations. For PLN there is the PLN-Associated Variant Gene Test.

Do I need to worry about protein-losing disease as I don't have North American dogs in my pedigree?

There is no foundation for assuming that only dogs born in North America are at risk of PLE/PLN. All the diseases are recognised hereditary diseases of all Soft-Coated Wheaten Terriers, no matter what their nationality or place of birth or coat type is etc.

go to top

Should I stop giving vaccines if my dog is affected by PLE, PLN or RD?

The research vets working on the SCWTCA health projects advise vaccines should not be given to a dog suffering from PLE, PLN or RD. The vets have determined that vaccines cause too much stress to the system of affected dogs. You may titre test to make certain your dog has immunity to those diseases for which you would normally vaccinate. Consult with your vet about titre testing.

Can anything be done to stop these diseases in Wheaten Terriers?

  • Keep up to date with the latest health information.
  • Test annually and repeatedly throughout the dog's life.
  • Genetic testing information for PLN go to Genetic Testing for PLN-associated variant genes.
  • Clear by Parentage - the Policy as given on the SCWTCA Endowment Health and Pedigree database. is on this link (pdf opens in new tab)
  • Choose not to breed from affected dogs, or littermates of affected dogs..
  • Make your breeding choices with care and use dogs from other people who are taking the same precautions with regard to their dogs.
  • Be open and honest about the results.
  • Please add health information and test results to the SCWTCA Endowment Inc. Pedigree and Health Database:

Only by taking part in this collective effort and working together openly and honestly, can we safeguard the future of the Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier.