Lymphangiectasia is an obstructive disorder involving the
lymphatic system of the gastrointestinal tract, resulting in Protien-Losing
Enteropathy. As part of the normal circulatory system, lymph
fluid is collected from tissues throughout the body and returned to the
blood by way of the lymphatic vessels. In intestinal lymphangiectasia,
normal drainage is blocked so that intestinal lymph leaks into the
intestines instead of being returned to the circulation. This results in
the loss of proteins, lymphocytes ( a type of white blood cell), and
lipids or fats into the stool.
Lymphatic obstruction results in dilation and rupture of
intestinal lacteals with subsequent loss of lymphatic contents (plasma
proteins, lymphocytes, and cylomicrons) into the intestinal lumen.
Although the proteins may be digested and reabsorbed, excessive entric
loss results in hypoproteinemia. Hypoproteinemia causes decreased
plasma oncotic pressure leading to edema formation, ascites, and pleural
The prognosis for this disease is unfortunately, a tough
one. The albumin (protein) count in the blood is usually very high with
this disease. The problem arises when the intestines stop absorbing the
proteins in the their food and it passes right through them plus it passes
through the intestinal walls into the blood stream causing major allergen
reactions throughout the body.
Intestinal lymphangiectasia may be congenital (present from birth) due to
malformation of the lymphatic system, or it may be acquired in association
with another disease.
Signs of intestinal lymphangiectasia usually develop
slowly over several months, and may come and go. Your dog may fail to gain
weight or may progressively lose weight. The loss of protein into the
bowel causes loss of fluid from the circulation into the limbs, the
abdomen, or the chest. Your dog's legs and/or abdomen may appear swollen
and he/she may have trouble breathing. There may be a chronic persistent
or intermittent diarrhea due to the loss of protein, fluid and fat into
This condition can not be cured but it can generally be
well-managed by you and your veterinarian. This is done
through diet, and medication to reduce inflammation in the intestinal
wall. An ideal diet for dogs with intestinal lymphangiectasia contains
minimal fat, and an ample quantity of high-quality protein. There are
commercial prescription diets available which fulfill these requirements,
or your veterinarian can give you information to prepare a low-fat diet at
home. In either case, you will need to supplement your dog's diet with
fat-soluble vitamins, due to the poor absorption of fat that occurs with
this condition. Feed MCT's (Medium Chain Triglycerides) to supplement fat
and increase the calories.
Corticosteroids are given to reduce inflammation, and thereby reduce loss
of protein and associated diarrhea. Your veterinarian may also prescribe
antibiotics. Prednisone, Tylosin, and Metronidazole have been
used. Antibiotics can be used to control secondary bacterial overgrowth.
Oncotic agents like plasma, dextrans, hetastarch help
maintain normal fluid distribution in the body and may be of benefit in
critical cases that are severely hypoproteinemic and need immediate