A confusing issue for many dog owners is the topic of high cholesterol in their dog’s blood panel results. This is an issue that cannot and should not be confused with the meaning of high cholesterol and its dangers in people. Today, people are concerned about reducing fat in their diets, exercising, keeping their weight down and taking medications to reduce cholesterol levels because cholesterol levels bring about very specific health risks. People want to reduce their chances of developing plaque in their arteries so they can keep their heart healthy.
For dogs, high cholesterol has a very different meaning! Dogs are carnivores and their digestive tracts are designed to eat plenty of animal fat. They need large amounts of animal fat to meet their physical needs for both energy and endurance. Dogs don’t develop plaque in their arteries; nor do they suffer harmful effects on their hearts from a high fat diet. Dogs can become obese from a diet that is too high in fat, from over feeding, or from getting little or no exercise. However, the fat does not affect their arteries or heart as it does in people, as we are omnivores. This does not mean we shouldn’t pay attention to high cholesterol readings in our dogs as they can give us good clues to other metabolic issues that may need further attention. Specific problems that can be the result of high cholesterol in a dog’s blood work can include:
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The thyroid gland helps in numerous ways, including hormone regulation and metabolism. When the thyroid isn’t working well, it can cause elevations in cholesterol, lipase, ALT, and cause a low white blood cell count. A thyroid panel blood test can show if the thyroid is low and medication can often bring these numbers back to the normal ranges.
This disease can cause issues with fat metabolism, resulting in high cholesterol, among other elevated blood panel results, such as glucose.
This is when the adrenal gland is producing too much cortisol (cortisone). A high level of cortisol (which can also be caused by long term steroid use) creates dysfunction in processing fats. Due to this, dogs with Cushing’s disease (and long term steroid use) are more prone to pancreatitis.
Sometimes a high triglyceride count will be seen with high cholesterol. A few breeds, most commonly Miniature Schnauzers, have a genetic tendency to lipidosis or hyperlipidemia.
All of these problems can show symptoms of skin problems, poor immune systems, weight issues and a more problematic issue of pancreatitis.
Pancreatitis is not caused by fat intake, but rather by issues that create an inflamed pancreas. Some of these health problems can be resolved with medication, but if they cannot, a low fat diet is needed. Here is a home cooked diet for dogs prone to pancreatitis:
Another diet that is low in sugar, which is well suited for any of the above conditions, but especially diabetes or Cushing’s disease can be found at: http://www.b-naturals.com/newsletter/low-glycemic/
More information on these health issues, along with other diet information can be found in my book, “Raw and Natural Nutrition for Dogs”.
It is very important to have yearly wellness checks on your dogs. These annual checks should include both annual blood work and a urinalysis. It is also important to know what the blood values mean in relationship to dogs. While many may mean the same things, there are some differences due to canine physiology and their nutritional needs as carnivores!