Protein Deposits (Amyloidosis) in Dogs

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4 min read

Key takeaways

Amyloidosis occurs as a secondary condition to chronic inflammation in dogs. It is the result of build up of proteins in the affected organ, which negatively impacts function.

  • In dogs, amyloidosis most commonly affects the kidneys and is usually detected when signs of kidney disease begin to develop
  • Reactive amyloidosis is typically caused by a chronic inflammatory condition
  • Familial amyloidosis means there is a genetic component to the disease
  • Biopsy is the only way to definitively diagnose amyloidosis as the cause of organ failure
  • Treatment focuses on palliative care and attempting to relieve the symptoms associated with chronic organ failure
  • Prognosis is very poor as most pets are already in renal failure when diagnosed
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A closer look: Protein Deposits (Amyloidosis) in Dogs

When organs are in a state of inflammation, the body sometimes creates high levels of protein in the organ as a byproduct of the inflammatory response. If inflammation continues long term, it can lead to amyloidosis.

Amyloidosis is classified as either reactive or familial. Reactive amyloidosis is caused by a chronic inflammatory condition which can be either infectious or noninfectious. In some cases of reactive amyloidosis no underlying cause can be found (idiopathic).

Familial amyloidosis means there is a genetic component to the disease.

Most documented cases of amyloidosis are classified as reactive, not familial.

In most cases, amyloidosis is not detected until signs of kidney disease or renal failure develop.

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Risk factors

Since amyloidosis often goes undiagnosed until renal failure has set in, it is often a life-shortening condition.

Amyloidosis is an uncommon condition in the dog population as a whole, however it is quite common in the Shar Pei breed. Shar-Pei dogs have a 23% chance of developing the disease.

Amyloidosis accounts for 15% of all types of kidney diseases in dogs. Females are more often affected than males. Age of diagnosis is usually middle age or older; the exception is the Shar Pei as they tend to be affected at a much younger age.

Amyloidosis is considered part of the Shar-Pei Fever complex, but not all dogs with Shar-Pei Fever develop amyloidosis. How severely a Shar-Pei dog is affected depends on how many copies of the mutated gene are present.

Possible causes

Amyloidosis occurs when the body lays down an abnormally high level of proteins within the affected organ. These deposits negatively impact both the form and function of that organ. Amyloidosis has been documented to occur in multiple organs, but the kidney is by far the most common site of occurrence in dogs.

Main symptoms

Symptoms of amyloidosis are usually related to renal failure as this is the most common organ affected.

Fever may precede signs of amyloidosis in the Shar Pei as Shar Pei Fever can be a predisposing cause of amyloidosis.

Testing and diagnosis

Diagnostic tools include:

  • Physical exam
  • Bloodwork
  • Urinalysis
  • Blood pressure
  • Ultrasound

A renal biopsy is the only way to definitively diagnose amyloidosis as the cause of renal failure.

Steps to Recovery

There is no effective treatment for amyloidosis. Anti-inflammatories have been tested, but there is little evidence that they are effective.

Treatment mostly consists of supportive care for renal failure and any other secondary complications. Kidney transplants have been attempted, but typically fail.

If the underlying cause of amyloidosis is identified, treatment for it may be attempted in an effort to lower the inflammatory response. Antioxidants such as vitamin C, lecithin granules, and glucosamine supplements may also be beneficial.

Prognosis is very poor as most pets are already in renal failure when diagnosed. Contributing to the poor prognosis is the progressive nature of the condition. Survival times vary from 0-20 months.


Prompt identification and treatment of any underlying inflammatory process may help slow the disease process, but it will not necessarily prevent it if a dog is predisposed. Any affected dog should not be bred. Keeping up with regular checkups and vaccinations may help early identification optimize overall health. Amyloidosis is not contagious

Are Protein Deposits (Amyloidosis) in Dogs common?

Amyloidosis is uncommon in general, but dogs are the most commonly affected domestic animal.

Typical Treatment

  • Anti-inflammatories
  • Supportive care
  • Treatment of underlying condition
  • Palliative care
  • Dietary supplementation

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