You're probably familiar with the importance and effect of hormones on the human body. They’re a key component of our health, affecting our growth and development, metabolism, mood, appetite and so much more. If something is up with our hormones, our body lets us know!
Hormones are just as important in the health of dogs. Unfortunately there are some pretty serious hormonal diseases that can make life difficult for our furry buddies. They're called ‘endocrine diseases’, and we’re going to talk about them today.
What is an Endocrine Disease?
An endocrine disease is caused by an upset in the balance of a dog's hormones. There can be either too much (hyper-disease) or too little (hypo-disease) of a specific hormone, and depending on what hormone it is the symptoms can range in severity. If left untreated, some hormonal diseases can be fatal, so it’s important to get your pooch down to your local vet if you suspect something is not quite right.
Here are four endocrine disease that we tend to see a lot of in Australia:
Just like in humans, diabetes is a common hormonal condition in dogs. In canines, it resembles Type 1 diabetes in humans, which occurs when the pancreas doesn't make enough insulin. Insulin helps tissues absorb glucose, one of the essential fuels that cells require to continue functioning.
Without insulin, the cells are effectively starved of glucose. This will cause a big increase in the appetite of your dog, as their body is telling them it needs more sustenance. The glucose also makes its way into the urinary system, which causes a lot of extra peeing.
If you notice weight loss, an increased appetite and more peeing than normal, there’s a chance your dog has diabetes and I’d recommend getting them to your vet for a checkup pronto! If they are diabetic, they’ll most likely need insulin injections and a change in diet.
You might hear this referred to as ‘Hypoadrenocorticism’, and it's when the adrenal glands aren’t producing enough of the steroids cortisol and aldosterone. These are the ‘stress management’ hormones, which are important in the regulation of your dog’s internal organs and body systems.
Young to middle aged female dogs are at the highest risk, so be aware if you have a dog in that bracket. Symptoms can be similar to other diseases, meaning a vet diagnosis is essential for Addison’s disease. Some of the things to look out for include increased thirst, general weakness, weight loss, lethargy, vomiting and diarrhea.
If left untreated, this hormone condition can lead to acute health conditions that could be fatal. The good news is though, with the right ongoing treatment dogs can enjoy a normal lifespan!
This is the opposite of Addison’s disease, and you’ll hear it called hypoadrenocorticism. With Cushing’s, adrenal glands are in overdrive and produce too much cortisol. Cortisol is produced in times of stress when the body is preparing to either ‘fight’ or ‘flight’, so to have it pumping through the body for extended periods of time is a health concern.
Symptoms include a raging thirst and excessive urination. Your dog will want to eat more, and you’ll notice they become weaker and more lethargic. There’ll also be a shortness of breath and excessive panting, and possible hair loss too.
This is when a dog has an underactive thyroid, meaning not enough of the thyroid hormone is being put out into the bloodstream. This causes a slowdown in metabolism, causing sluggishness and sleepiness, weight gain, an increased appetite and hair loss along their flanks.
This can also be linked in with other hormonal diseases like diabetes and Addison’s disease. What you really need to do, if your dog isn’t at full health and you notice any of the symptoms in this article, is get them down to your vet. A full professional analysis, including blood tests, will be needed to get to the cause of the problem and onto the right treatment.
Stay Alert to Your Dogs Health
The good news is, the treatments are available for hypothyroidism and the other endocrine diseases we’ve spoken about. Keeping a finger on the pulse of your dog's health is essential, because it means you’ll catch any conditions early. Not only does this prevent any extended suffering, it also means your vet catches the condition before it deteriorates.
Happy dogs equal a happy family! So be alert, keep an eye on them and get them checked out if anything seems amiss. Ultimately, enjoy them!