(Veterinarians - full testing information is on this page)
Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers (SCWT) have a predisposition to certain hereditary diseases, so the Key Veterinary Researchers recommend that you perform an annual health screen on your Wheaten.
This gives a ‘snap-shot’ of your dog's general health for you and your Veterinarian, but more specifically it can indicate evidence of hereditary diseases.
RD – Renal Dysplasia is the abnormal development of the kidney. This malformation can result in early renal failure (birth to three years).
PLE & PLN are syndromes characterised by the loss of proteins from the gastrointestinal tract (PLE); or the kidneys (PLN).
Addison’s Disease - Addison’s Disease (Hypoadrenocorticism) is the insufficient production and secretion of hormones
(glucocorticoids, mineralocorticoids) by the adrenal gland cortex
Early detection can offer more choices for treatment which can often result in longer and better quality of life. Don’t wait until your dog shows outward signs of illness.
Annual health testing is recommended to start at about 15-18 months.
Blood and urine tests cannot predict if a dog will develop these diseases, but they can determine if a dog is clear of signs of disease and establish baseline values for future comparison.
Clinical Signs of a disease are the things you can see, or that your veterinarian may discover on a physical examination of your Wheaten.
Therefore testing is important as, with many conditions, clinical signs do not show up until well after tests show signs of the disease. Also,many clinical signs of one disease can also be those of another.
Increased water consumption
Increased urination (dilute urine)
Possibly prone to urinary tract infection
Decreased appetite, vomiting, weight loss
Increased urination (less common)
& hypertension (less common)
Inability to handle stress
Slow heart rate
*PLE and PLN are difficult to diagnose. The initial stages of the disease may be mistaken for liver, glandular or other enteric or
Wheatens with PLE and/or PLN may have serious thromboembolic events (such as pulmonary embolism) before symptoms or renal failure start, even before there is increased serum
creatinine or BUN.
** The clinical signs of Addison’s Disease are often non-specific and can mimic those of multiple other medical disorders.
Your Veterinarian can check for signs of diseases and can undertake blood and urine tests ‘in-house’, or they may use an external Laboratory service.
Before testing, your Wheaten should be ‘fasted’ (not eat eight hours before the test), otherwise spurious results may occur. Important - drinking water should be available at all times.
(Please Note that Veterinarians information page has full details of these tests)
PLN-Associated Variant Genes test - further details on the Genetic testing pages
If you or your Veterinarian suspects RD or Addison’s, the following tests can be undertaken:
These diseases can be difficult to diagnose and can be confused with each other. Here are some of the similarities and differences.
Source: 1999 ACVIM PROCEEDINGS: Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier PLE-PLN; Meryl P. Littman VMD DACVIM, Philadelphia PA
Low total protein
Elevated serum creatinine
Elevated Urine Protein Creatinine Ratio (Very important)
Diagnosis of RD, PLE, PLN or Addison’s is dependent on all test results, clinical signs and symptoms – do
not assume one “bad” item means your dog has any of these diseases.
If your Wheaten has abnormal test results do not panic. There are multiple causes besides genetic diseases why there may be abnormalities. In many cases, one lab result or even one set of results is insufficient for diagnosis. Your vet may wish to repeat testing in a few weeks to see what’s going on and to do additional testing to rule out other causes.
Treatment for RD, PLE, PLN and Addison’s disease are often part of a veterinarian’s standard practice.
If you or your vet needs additional resources concerning these diseases please contact:
Meryl Littman, VMD, DACVIM, Professor Emerita of Medicine (Clinician-Educator), University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, who led the research into PLN in Wheatens for decades, created “Recommendations Concerning Protein-Losing Nephropathy (PLN) in Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers” which you should give to your veterinarian.
Dr Littman has retired, but is available for paid consultations, please contact her at this email
Shelly Vaden, DVM, PhD, DACVIM, Professor Internal Medicine, North Carolina State University is available for consultation ONLY with veterinarians. If you wish a consultation, please have your vet contact her at this email
The International Renal Interest Society (IRIS) have published consensus guidelines on the treatment of Renal Disease.
Should the blood/urinalysis tests confirm abnormalities, you and your vet need to take action.
You - Contact your breeder immediately, he/she will want to know in order to help you and to take action on other dogs in their breeding program.
Your veterinarian – contact a Veterinarian Specialist in your area or a Key Researcher.
If your Wheaten is diagnosed with a hereditary disease, then you you will be advised to test more frequently.
If your tests are normal continue to test every year and have your veterinarian compare results.
Keep a copy of the test results in a file at home. This could be a paper copy, or a spreadsheet on your computer.
The *Watchdog Health Tracker is available in the UK (example on this page) and is available in the USA through the SCWTCA Endowment Inc.
WHI would like to thank: Dr Littman, Dr Vaden and Dr Allenspach and the ©Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier Club of America (SCWTCA – visit www.scwtca.org)
for their kind permission to reproduce this information.