Lymph or lymphatic vessels are thin walled, vescular channels that are part of lymphatic system of the body and function to transport lymph fluid. This fluid circulates through lymphatic vessels and removes bacteria and other materials from body tissues as well as carry fat from small intestine. The lymph fluid is eventually draind into the blood stream.
Lymphangiectasia is the marked dilation of the lymphatic vessels in the gastrointestinal tract (stomach, small and large intestine). In this condition, normal drainage of the lymph fluid into the blood stream is blocked which causes leakage of lymph fluid into the intestine instead of being returned to the circulation. This disorder results in protein-losing enteropathy (PLE) and eventually, very low blood protein level develops.
There are two forms of this condition, Primary lymphangiectasia usually only affects the intestine but it occasionally involves a concurrent chylothorax. It occurs due to a congenital defect of the lymphatic vessels but it may be associated with inflammation of the lymphatics, so-called lipogranulomatous lympangitis. Secondary lymphangiectasia occurs with any pathological process that causes lymphatic obstruction such as direct damage to the lymphatics, Inflammation and subsequent fibrosis of the lymphatics, Neoplastic infiltration or erosion of the walls of lymphatic vessels and Obstruction of the thoracic duct.
This condition can be congenital (present at birth) or acquired. Soft-coated wheaten terriers, basenjis, Norwegian lundehunds, and Yorkshire terriers are known to have congenital condition. Any dog of any age and gender can acquire this condition but mostly middle to old age dogs are commonly affected by this condition.
Some common symptoms for lymphangiectasia include
Buildup of fluid in the abdomen and under the skin
Excessive gas in the stomach or intestines
Difficulty breathing (dyspnea) from build-up of fluid in the space between the chest wall and the lungs (pleural effusion)
Chronic (long-term) diarrhea – may be intermittent or continuous, watery to semisolid consistency