Merck Manual

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Pet Owner Version

Gammopathies in Dogs


Ian Rodney Tizard

, BVMS, BSc, PhD, DSc (Hons), DACVM, Department of Veterinary Pathobiology, College of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University

Reviewed/Revised Jun 2018 | Modified Oct 2022

The body sometimes produces too many antibodies (immunoglobulins). Gammopathies are conditions in which there is a dramatic rise in the production of antibodies. There are 2 general types: polyclonal and monoclonal. In polyclonal gammopathies, levels of all the major immunoglobulins are increased. In monoclonal gammopathies, the levels of only a single type of immunoglobulin are increased.

Polyclonal gammopathies may occur when a longterm disease causes chronic stimulation of the immune system. Examples include longterm skin infections; viral, bacterial, parasitic, or fungal infections; rickettsial diseases; and immunologic diseases (such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis); muscle inflammation; and some types of cancer.

Monoclonal gammopathies may be either benign (not associated with another disease) or associated with immunoglobulin-secreting cancers. Doberman Pinschers are predisposed to monoclonal gammopathies. The signs of monoclonal gammopathies vary depending on the location and severity of the source tumor(s). For example, tumors frequently develop in the cavities of flat bones in the skull, ribs, and pelvis and in vertebrae (bones of the spine). Fractures of diseased bones can lead to central nervous system problems, spinal disorders, pain, and lameness. Signs can also be caused by the presence of the monoclonal antibodies themselves. In about 20% of dogs with monoclonal gammopathies, blood changes occur that can cause blood clots, bleeding problems, depression, blindness, and other nervous system signs. In some conditions, the animals develop gangrene and lose portions of the ear tips, eyelids, toes, or tail tip. Normal antibodies can be reduced, resulting in immunodeficiency.

The tumors that produce immunoglobulins are often treated with chemotherapy.

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