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Pyruvate Kinase Deficiency in Dogs

small dog being treated at vet


Pyruvate kinase deficiency in dogs is a metabolic disorder passed from parents to their offspring. Pyruvate kinase deficiency primarily affects red blood cells, which play an essential role in delivering oxygen and nutrients to tissues throughout the body.

Breeds More Likely to Have Pyruvate Kinase Deficiency

Since pyruvate kinase deficiency in dogs is a hereditary disease, it tends to appear in some breeds more than others. Breeds more likely to have the condition include:

Pyruvate kinase deficiency is a recessive trait. Dogs with one copy of the mutation can pass the gene on to their offspring, but they do not show symptoms of the disease. Dogs with two copies of the mutated gene are affected by the illness.

Diagnosing Pyruvate Kinase Deficiency in Dogs

Owners typically bring their pets to the veterinarian after noticing signs of lethargy and fatigue. Since these are common signs of anemia, the veterinarian will likely perform an initial blood test that measures the number of red blood cells in a sample.

When doctors do not find low levels of iron in blood samples, they may suspect that another disease is causing anemia. At this point, they can order blood tests that measure the activity of pyruvate kinase. If the enzyme shows low activity, then the dog has pyruvate kinase deficiency.

Unfortunately, many dogs with pyruvate kinase deficiency get misdiagnosed with illnesses like immune-mediated hemolytic anemia.

Symptoms of Pyruvate Kinase Deficiency in Dogs

Pyruvate kinase deficiency in dogs can cause a variety of observable symptoms, including:

  • Lethargy
  • Low tolerance to exercise
  • Fatigue

Other symptoms are not visible to the naked eye. For instance, pyruvate kinase deficiency can cause medical problems like:

  • Severe anemia
  • Enlarged spleens
  • Enlarged livers
  • Increased bone density

Unlike iron-deficient anemia, pyruvate kinase deficiency can cause abnormally high levels of iron in the blood.

If left untreated, pyruvate kinase deficiency in dogs can lead to liver failure or bone marrow failure. Dogs that do not receive treatment typically die by the time they turn five years old.

Treatment Options for Pyruvate Kinase Deficiency in Dogs

Researchers have not uncovered a cure for pyruvate kinase deficiency in dogs. Some veterinarians have experimented with bone marrow transplants, but treatments have not been made available to the public.

Dogs with pyruvate kinase deficiency can lead enjoyable lives for several years. Eventually, though, the chronic metabolic condition will lead to liver damage, bone marrow failure, or such severe anemia that the dog can no longer survive.

Once diagnosed, the typical dog has about four years to live.


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