Albumin and globulin are two proteins found in the blood of dogs and humans. Albumin helps maintain the proper volume levels in the blood vessels. Globulin helps carry antibodies and enzymes through the body. Low levels of either of these proteins suggest your dog has a serious health problem. When both levels are low the number of possible diagnoses is more limited but still serious.
One cause of low levels of albumin and globulin in dogs is liver disease. Because both of these proteins are made in the liver, if the organ is not functioning properly it cannot effectively synthesize the proteins, thus resulting in reduced levels in the blood. Several liver diseases can cause problems for dogs, including hepatitis, hepatic lipidosis, copper toxicosis, cirrhosis and liver cancer. Once the cause of the problem is identified, treatment involves minimizing your dog's discomfort through medication and nutrition changes. Surgery or chemotherapy may also be necessary, depending on the cause of the liver disease.
Protein Losing Enteropathy
Another potential cause of low albumin and globulin levels in your dog's blood is protein losing enteropathy (PLE). This term refers to a condition in which these proteins end up in the gastrointestinal tract instead of in the vascular system. Causes of PLE include infections, allergies, gastrointestinal cancer, gastroenteritis, parasites and fungi. Regardless of the cause, the result is that the barrier between your dog's gut and the vascular system stops working effectively. Treatments depend on the underlying cause of PLE. Parasite or virus causes can be cured quickly in most cases. Chronic causes require treatment of the cause, plus nutritional changes and other lifelong management of the condition.
As in humans, the kidneys clean out waste from a dog's blood. The waste is then removed from the body as urine. If the kidneys stop functioning properly, they may end up letting too many of the proteins the body needs be released into the urine, thus resulting in low levels of albumin, globulin and other blood proteins. Medication can be used to stop the protein loss, but hospitalization is sometimes required to treat the underlying causes of the kidney problems.
Low albumin and globulin levels can also indicate lymphoma, a type of cancer that affects the cells in the lymph nodes. In addition to the low levels of these blood proteins, dogs may also show symptoms such as lethargy, loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea and weakness. Sometimes the tumor caused by the cancer cells can be felt under your dog’s skin, particularly around the joints or neck. Lymphoma is usually treated with chemotherapy.