Health: Kidney Disease and Ectopic Ureters

By Jennifer Stoeckl, MAT - Dire Wolf Project CEO, Nov. 10, 2019
Enoch Puppy
Enoch (Buck/Sela)

With all of the recent discussion on the DireWolf Dogs Health page on the topic of kidney disease, infection, malformation, and failure within the Spaceballs litter out of Buck and Sela, I thought everyone could benefit from a review of what has been going on for those puppies involved and the kidney disease status as it now stands.

Recently, it has come to our attention that four female puppies within the Spaceballs litter have developed some odd behaviors [excessive drinking, frequent urination, urinating in strange places] that resulted in visits to the veterinarian’s office. It was found upon full blood panel tests that each of the puppies’ blood tests showed high BUN and creatinine levels, which is an indicator of kidney disease among many other possibilities. All four veterinarians associated with these puppies suspected kidney issues. In all four cases, these puppies had UTI infections. In three of the cases, the UTI infections had not yet been fully resolved prior to the administration of the full blood panel. Two of the puppies were returned to Lois who is now administering antibiotics, which Lois reports have cleared up the excessive drinking and urination issues. One of the puppies not returned to Lois is also on antibiotics to clear up the UTI.

One puppy, Enoch, had cleared up her UTI infection and went back for a follow up full panel blood test, which revealed continued high BUN and Creatinine levels. Upon veterinarian recommendation, Enoch then had an ultrasound, which showed abnormally shaped kidneys and bilateral ectopic ureters. One of her kidneys showed hydronephrosis, which is when the kidney swells due to excessive or backed up urine. Because the kidney is not functioning properly, it is considered kidney disease, however, the swelling of this kidney could very well be due to the misalignment of the ureter tube coming from the kidney attached to the bladder.

Kidneys, ureters, and the bladder continue to grow and move as puppies age. According to research that Lois posted earlier in this group, kidneys continue to develop until a puppy is around six and a half months old. But, especially note just how quickly an American Alsatian puppy must grow and change over the course of its puppyhood. American Alsatian puppies must grow from one pound to sometimes over one hundred pounds in one year. Consider that large rate of growth compared to a Chihuahua that only reaches twenty pounds or less in that same timeframe.

Enoch is currently fifty pounds at four and a half months old. At this rate of growth, it appears that Enoch may reach over one hundred pounds as an adult. Therefore, we continue to hope that Enoch’s ureters will shift to the correct positioning as her bladder grows, expands, and develops in the next few months. As I understand, it is unknown whether Enoch’s underdeveloped kidney is currently functioning.

In the best scenario, Enoch’s two ureters will shift enough in the next two months to allow the kidneys to consistently deposit urine into her bladder and the underdeveloped kidney will grow enough in that time to function normally IF it is not currently functioning. If these events do naturally occur, Enoch can have a normal life free of kidney disease.

On the other hand, if one of the ureters does not shift enough and/or one of the kidneys continues to build up urine or not function, then Enoch will unfortunately likely require future surgery to correct the ureters’ positioning allowing the kidney to release its waste material. Please pray that the kidneys/ureters will develop in such a way to allow Enoch to be free from future kidney disease.

All of the other puppies in the Spaceballs litter have now been tested, as well as both of the parents, Buck and Sela. These dogs have all shown completely normal blood levels.

At this time, we only know that one puppy, Enoch, has malformed kidneys with bilateral ectopic ureters. It is not yet known if any other puppy from this litter has malformed kidneys or ectopic ureters that results in kidney disease. Once the UTIs are cleared up in the other three puppies, we can find out more about this. It is recommended after the UTIs have been dealt with that each puppy with a UTI from the Spaceballs litter go back to the veterinarian for a follow up full panel blood test, just as Enoch was given. It would also help if the blood test included the SDMA testing data. At that time, we can determine what future kidney issues will be present with this litter.

Kidney disease can be diagnosed whenever a kidney is not properly functioning. The reason behind the malfunctioning kidney can be due to a multitude of health issues such as: disease, malformation, toxin build-up, misaligned ureters, diabetes, high blood pressure, glomerulonephritis, hydronephrosis, infections, kidney stones, external damage, and polycystic kidney disease to name a few. In other words, anything that results in the kidney not functioning properly can be described as kidney disease.

Although the term kidney disease conjures up a certain image in our mind’s eye, the reason for the disease to be manifested in this instance is likely not due to the kidney itself, but due to the misalignment of the ureters. It is for this reason that we will place Enoch’s diagnosis of kidney disease into the “Urinal Problems” section of the health database, instead of the “Chronic Kidney Disease” section where it was originally placed. There is also a section called “Birth Defects” that was considered. However, the one other case of ectopic ureters in our breed is located in the “Urinal Problems” section. Consequently, the “Urinal Problems” section also houses the UTI information for other dogs, which is relevant to the other three puppies from this litter. Therefore, I will also amend the health database to reflect the UTIs that these puppies have experienced also placing them in the “Urinal Problems” section.

I hope this review clears up some of your questions regarding the current events with the Spaceballs litter. As always, if you see any symptoms of excessive drinking, frequent urination, incontinence, blood in the urine, or urinating in odd places, please let us know. But, please remember that large growing puppies need to consume a lot of water, so an excessive amount of water for one of our puppies is a great deal of water.




The following is our breeder’s recommendation for the procedures regarding these symptoms.

  1. Contact your breeder and speak with them about what you are seeing to make sure you are seeing something outside of the breed’s norms.
  2. If you are, indeed, seeing something outside of the norm, get a urine sample to your vet for a urinalysis.

-----a. If UTI is diagnosed, treat with antibiotics.

-----b. Take a second urine sample to your vet to make sure the UTI has been fully eliminated.

  1. At the same time that you bring in a urine sample, get a feces sample to your vet for parasite infection rule-out.

-----a. If your puppy shows parasites, treat with appropriate medication.

-----b. Take a second feces sample to your vet after medication is complete to make sure parasites have been eliminated.

  1. Continue to monitor your pet for any continued symptoms.
  2. Feed your puppy well, making sure to include lots of protein and fat as they will be growing excessively in the first year. [Yes, protein and fat, do not let people sway you into thinking otherwise, especially for puppies.]
  3. If symptoms persist despite the elimination of a UTI, get a full panel blood test – make sure to specifically ask for adding the SDMA test to the full panel.
  4. If the second blood panel shows high BUN and Creatinine levels despite eliminating the UTI, then you can go ahead with an ultrasound. [Remember to completely rule out a UTI and/or parasite infection BEFORE doing an ultrasound. All puppies have parasites and breeders work very hard to eliminate them prior to sale, but they can linger. That is why we recommend on the contract that a fecal sample be taken to your vet to confirm.]

-----a. If an ultrasound comes back with abnormal kidneys and/or ectopic ureters, contact us right away so that we can help you in whatever way we can [take back your puppy, replace your puppy, etc.] as well as share all the results on our health database and here on the DireWolf Dogs Health page on Facebook.

-----b. Try not to panic, especially if your puppy is young and growing.

-----c. Our recommendation is to forego surgery to correct any abnormalities until your puppy’s kidneys and bladder have stopped growing.

  1. Continue to feed your puppy well, include LOTS of protein, fat, and water. Do not skimp. They must develop properly during this time to increase the chances that the ureters will shift with the expanding bladder before bladder growth stops. [It is our strong breeding recommendation that the information out there regarding protein increasing kidney issues is highly incorrect, promoting an agenda.] Raw food diet is best, but anything as close to a raw food diet as you can with added fat is recommended. Avoid excessive carbohydrates, especially: wheat, corn, potatoes, oats, sugar [in any form], and rice.
  2. Return to your vet at six and a half to seven months old, after you have fed a diet rich in protein and fat. Get a third full panel blood test and follow-up ultrasound.

-----a. If blood test continues to show excessively high levels of BUN and Creatinine and/or the ultrasound continues to show misplaced ureters, then consider surgery for either kidney replacement or ureter realignment. That decision is a highly personal one and everyone will have different needs during this time. We will support you in whichever decision you choose to make. We are here for you and your puppy for life.

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Jennifer Stoeckl is the co-founder of the Dire Wolf Project, founder of the DireWolf Guardians American Dirus Dog Training Program, and owner/operator of DireWolf Dogs of Vallecito. She lives in the beautiful inland northwest among the Ponderosa pine forests with her pack of American Dirus dogs.