Protein is important for dogs because it provides them with essential amino acids vital to good health. Generally, when dogs eat too much protein, what isn't used as energy or converted to fat is excreted in the urine. When tests reveal high protein levels in blood, it could indicate dehydration, inflammation, some kind of infection, and even cancer.
What causes high protein in a dog's blood?
High total protein levels can indicate dehydration, inflammation, infection, immune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis or lupus, and some types of cancer. Dehydration is the most common cause of high TP values. Prolonged fever, vomiting, diarrhea, or insufficient water intake can all cause dehydration.
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Another cause of a high protein value in dogs is infection, as the dog's immune system produces higher levels of globulin to stimulate antibodies. An immune system tumor may also be the culprit, especially in older dogs. Vets consider the "total picture" in reaching a diagnosis, including other lab results as well as your dog's symptoms and medical history.
Explaining total blood protein in dogs
Blood chemistry profiles reveal a wealth of information, including a value for a dog's total protein, or TP. A dog's total protein value includes the proteins albumin, which accounts for the majority of blood proteins, and the larger proteins known as globulin. Fibrinogen is a third type of blood protein, though it is present in much smaller amounts, comprising approximately 5 percent of a dog's blood proteins. A normal TP range for a dog is between 5.5 and 7.2 gm/dL. A normal albumin range is 3.2 to 4.1 g/L, while globulin tends to range between 1.9 and 3.7 g/dL.
Albumin is produced by the liver and holds water in the blood vessels, so an increase in albumin often indicates dehydration. Globulin is produced by your dog's liver and immune system and works to fight disease. Therefore, increases in globulin indicate infection of some kind. Fibrinogen transforms to fibrin to help in blood clotting. Since albumin and globulin make up the majority of the total protein number, understanding their values can provide clues about why a TP value is not in the normal range.
Symptoms of high protein in canines
Some symptoms of high blood protein, like vomiting and diarrhea, can occur in many illnesses, including viruses that go away in a day or two. Other symptoms include:
- Lethargy and sleepiness
- Increased, intense thirst
- Lack of appetite and/or weight loss
- Increased urination
- Irregular heartbeat
- Vision problems
How to treat high protein in blood
Treating high TP in dogs depends on what is causing it. For example, if tests indicate dehydration may be the cause, a simple first step is to offer a large bowl of fresh water several times a day and encourage the dog to drink. If dehydration is severe, IV fluids may need to be administered. When retesting does not show improvement, further testing will be done and other possible causes considered. For example, dehydration can be caused by fluid loss from vomiting, diarrhea, and fever, so determining the causes for these symptoms will be necessary.
Protein electrophoresis goes further than the initial TP test by separating proteins according to their size and electrical charge. While there is only one type of albumin, globulin has many different types. By separating and measuring each type, and plotting them on a graph, different possible diseases can be indicated. If cancer is suspected, x-rays and other tests may be done to find the tumors, as well as a complete blood count (CBC) looking for indications of cancer such as leukemia or lymphoma. Cancer is typically treated with chemotherapy or radiation, or a combination of the two.
Infections of many types are typically treated with antibiotics and perhaps other drugs depending on the infection. Lupus and RA are autoimmune diseases that require different treatments. Antibiotics and immunosuppressants may be prescribed for lupus, while anti-inflammatory and pain medications, as well as corticosteroids, are prescribed for RA.