What is High Cholesterol?
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Symptoms of High Cholesterol in Dogs
Symptoms may be absent or may correlate with the underlying cause of the hyperlipidemia. Symptoms of hyperlipidemia can include:
- Decreased appetite
- Abdominal pain
- Bloated abdomen
- Cloudy eyes
- Fatty deposits under the skin
- Hair loss
Causes of High Cholesterol in Dogs
Possible causes of hyperlipidemia include:
- High-fat diets – dietary intake of fats is a common cause of hyperlipidemia
- Obesity – high body fat and associated issues
- Steroid medications – progesterone and corticosteroids
- Diabetes - can cause increased hormone-sensitive lipase activity
- Hypothyroidism - can cause increased hormone-sensitive lipase activity and increased serum LDL
- Cushing’s syndrome - can cause increased hormone-sensitive lipase activity
- Pancreatitis – inflammation of the pancreas
- Cholestasis – excretion in the bile is the major way the body removes excess fats
- Nephrotic syndrome – kidney disease can cause increased hormone-sensitive lipase activity
- Pregnancy – hyperlipidemia may be seen temporarily during pregnancy
- Genetic predisposition – Miniature schnauzers and Beagles tend to be genetically predisposed to hyperlipidemia.
Hyperlipidemia can be physiological or pathological
- Physiological – high lipid levels due to having recently eaten a meal (normal increase)
- Pathological – The body is either unable to clear fats from the blood, is synthesizing lipoproteins, or is stabilizing lipoproteins so they cannot be broken down. (abnormal increase)
Hyperlipidemia can be primary or secondary
- Primary – genetic or of unknown origin
- Secondary – caused by an underlying disease
Hyperlipidemia can involve one or more of the following:
- Elevated blood triglycerides
- Elevated blood cholesterol
- Elevated blood chylomicrons (protein-coated triglycerides)
Diagnosis of High Cholesterol in Dogs
You may want to eliminate all table scraps and gradually switch your pet over to a low-fat, high-fiber dog food as diets high in fat are a common cause of hyperlipidemia. However, results from diet changes can take 6-8 weeks. If you are seeing symptoms associated with hyperlipidemia in your pet, you will need to visit the veterinarian to determine the underlying cause. A full history of your pet and a thorough physical exam will determine what diagnostic tests may be necessary.
Laboratory tests used to help diagnose hyperlipidemia and identify any underlying causes can include a complete blood cell count to detect blood abnormalities, biochemistry to examine kidney and liver function, urinalysis to examine urinary tract function, a thyroid test to measure thyroid hormone production, a CPL (canine pancreatic lipase) assay to measure lipase levels and detect possible pancreatitis, lipid tests to examine levels of various lipoproteins to aid in locating where the metabolic issue lies and a cortisol test to measure adrenal gland function. The pet must not eat any food or treats 12 hours prior to the cortisol test. Morning appointments are best.
Treatment of High Cholesterol in Dogs
A common contributor to hyperlipidemia is a diet high in fat. Table scraps can be the biggest problem, however many commercial dog foods can be too high in fat for some pets as well. A low-fat, high-fiber diet can help reduce blood lipids. Proper portion sizes and daily exercise can prevent obesity, also a contributing factor to hyperlipidemia. Homemade diets are not recommended as they often lack in daily vitamin and mineral requirements.
Dietary changes must be made gradually to avoid upsetting the gastrointestinal tract. Unless your veterinarian instructs otherwise, once a new food is purchased, mix half of the new food with half of the old food and feed this mixture for 7 days. Thereafter, you can safely feed the new food only.Lipid-Lowering Medications
Medications are available that can lower triglyceride and cholesterol levels in the blood. Human statin drugs are not safe for use in animals (Gemfibrizol)Secondary Condition Medications
Treatment of the underlying cause of hyperlipidemia will often resolve high circulating lipid levels. Diabetes’s, Cushing’s syndrome, and hypothyroidism can all be addressed with medication.
Recovery of High Cholesterol in Dogs
Your pet will need to be on a blood monitoring schedule depending on the diagnosed cause of the hyperlipidemia to ensure that he is responding to treatment. Follow up exams may be weekly or monthly until drugs are adjusted to appropriate levels. After medication levels are established, blood tests may be conducted every 6-12 months to monitor.
Be sure that dietary changes are explained to family and friends clearly to keep the pet free from exposure to table scraps or disposed food. Instructions for medical treatment and dietary treatment must be followed for them to be effective. Discontinuation of treatment can be dangerous. Acute pancreatitis (potentially fatal) can result from a pet eating fatty foods after being on a low-fat diet for some time.
Treatments are normally successful in resolving high-lipid blood levels and are often required to be continued through the life of the pet.
Cost of High Cholesterol in Dogs
Once your dog has high cholesterol the easiest way to manage it is to change their diet. A bag of low fat, high fiber dog food can cost between $18 and $45 per bag. Exercise is a great way to help manage your dog’s condition, especially if the cause of the high cholesterol is weight related. It also doesn’t cost a thing, except a little of your time. Your veterinarian may prescribe Gemfibrozil (to lower the lipid count) which can cost between $10 and $25. The high cholesterol is usually the result of an underlying cause such as diabetes, Cushing’s disease or hypothyroidism. Treating diabetes can cost around $350 every two months (the cost of the new food, insulin, needles, and testing strips). Treating Cushing’s disease can vary greatly in cost. However, Lysodren is a popular treatment option and can cost about $75 per month. Hypothyroidism can get pretty pricey (around $480) once you factor in the cost of blood work, a consultation and medication. These options can cost anywhere between $75 and $385 and up. However, the overall cost of treating high cholesterol will depend greatly on the initial cause.
High Cholesterol Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
My dog is a 4 year old 8-pound maltipoo and has Irritable Bowel syndrome as well as Addison's Disease. She take Prednisoln every other day and Azathioprine every other day for her Addison's and Irritable Bowels. She is fairly playful and has a 15 minute walk each day. She has been on a homemade diet of ground turkey and bow tie noodles for a year now. After a recent trip to the vet I noticed that her cholesterol and triglycerides has drastically increased. Since March of 2016 her cholesterol has gone up from 278 to 399 and her triglycerides has gone up from 112 to 958. I am guessing that these have gone up because of the noodles in her diet. Are there any tips you would suggest to decrease her cholesterol and triglycerides and an explanation of how this was caused? Should her exercise be increased?
An increase in cholesterol and triglycerides occurs after a meal in response to the food that has been digested and absorbed by the body, another test should be carried out after a period of fasting to see the levels of cholesterol and triglycerides over time; especially when a dog is eating human food, has hormonal issues and on steroid medication. It maybe beneficial to switch Maizy’s diet to a commercial digestive sensitive diet (like Hills i/d) which is more specifically balanced to a dog’s nutritional needs but is for sensitive digestive tracts and is low fat; speak with your Veterinarian about Maizy’s suitability. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM
Take her off the homemade diet and switch to a low-fat canned. Homemade diets are the second best option for pets, but can be very dangerous if you don't know what you're doing. It's very easy for a dog on a homemade diet to develop health issues and become malnourished, unless their diet includes a wide variety of meats and vegetables, eggs, omegas from fish, etc, and it really helps to have a veterinary nutritionist provide recipes. You can maintain the moisture and low sugar in the diet by staying off of kibble, and switching to canned food. Some prescription diets can be helpful short term, but veterinarians who are also knowledgeable about nutrition will advise against staying on such diets long term.
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My three year old lab mix, Eddie, has a cloudy eye and our vet said it's high cholesterol. She recommended that he lose weight and told us how much to reduce his meals to 2 1/2 cups a day. He does not eat human food. He weighed 83 pounds and has lost three of the 10 pounds recommended so far. Meanwhile, we found out that he has stage lll hip dysplasia and needs to continue to lose weight and he acts like he's starving. I just switched him to a Healthy weight food and I'm topping it with veggies I cook in broth. I'm concerned because his eye continues to get cloudier. What am I doing wrong?
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My dog belgian malinois has lupus and is on pred.10mg every other day with a liver support just had blood test now her blood is full of fat so much it jelled up. What is treatment for this?
There is a relationship between hyperlipidemia and blood viscosity; in cases of an increase in blood viscosity due to the presence of fats, fish oil has been shown as being beneficial in helping to lower the presence of fat in the blood. Fish oil should be dosed around 40-70 mg EPA+DHA combined per kg (20-35mg/lb) or 70-100mg/kg (35-50mg/lb) of omega 3; there are medicines which may be used, but would be by Veterinary prescription based on other findings. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM
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My Shizapug has extremely high cholesterol cholesterol levels, high glucose but her T4is perfectly normal. She is obese needing to lose 17 pounds per her Vet. She is usually very active, never refuses food and usually looks happy all the time until 5 days ago when she quit wanting to eat much, very lethargic, sleep a lot and just doesn't feel good! She's been on a high protein, low fat diet for 4months, no treats except dental chews with no fat but has gained a pound and a half! A Senior blood panel was done two days ago and the Vet said its all weight related and adjusted her diet as well as put her on Previlox 50mg. one time a day. The Vet didn't seem concerned about the chlorestoral levels or glucose. I'm really worried as my furbaby isn't better, still wakes up panting like she's hot but she's not and other symptoms are continuing. Any thoughts??
An overweight shih pug by have some airway trouble due to the pug part of her genetics which would be exasperated by being overweight. The increase in weight whilst on dietary control is strange, but not overall worrying. High cholesterol and glucose is bad but the levels are important and there is high and then their is morbidly high. If you have concerns with your Veterinarian, you are in your right to visit another Veterinarian for a second opinion; ask your Veterinarian for the blood results so you don’t need to pay for the tests again. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM
I am very appreciative for the response by Dr. TURNER. thank you!!
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My dog has low triglycerides. WhAt can be done for this?
Usually triglyceride level increase and decrease after a meal and after a fast; triglycerides are made by the breakdown of fat by bile salts, if there is a problem with bile reaching the duodenum then the fat wouldn’t be broken down. Low fat diets may not provide adequate fat for digestion and malabsorption may mean that the body cannot absorb fat. Blood tests carried out before and after eating at certain intervals can help to determine the cause of the low triglyceride levels Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM
You can also add healthy triglycerides from fish oils - use a pump bottle, not pills, and do about a pump a day to add some highly digestible, high omega fats to your dog's diet, recent studies show such oils can add years to your pet's life.
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my dog has cushings disease, this was diagnosed last September. He is on tablets for his cortisol levels and these are stable. As part of the diagnostic process he had a scan that showed a mass on his liver; this is non-malignant and cushings related I believe. His blood work has shown typical cushings elevations in liver enzymes and cholesterol. Prior to Cushings he was on a high quality low fat food and has been since he was castrated 9 years ago. I was advised to swop him to a hepatic diet to support his liver, which I did, but a new vet said he needs a low fat diet!! I'm now confused as to what's best for him and he's having half and half. He walks 3 miles most days and runs 5 miles once a week with me. He never had the typical symptoms of hair loss but does have a slightly rounded tummy compared to his brother. Bloods and meds are very expensive and if he doesn't need the cholesterol one then I'd like to stop it. He takes Vetoryl capsules 60mg 5 days a week and 30mg 2 days a week plus Destolit twice a day. I've put 'fair' in the condition severity box as there's no option for 'don't know'
This is a difficult dilemma and may need to be approached from a scientific perspective; if the liver mass is pretty benign, it may be worth looking at the low fat diet and blood testing regularly to see if the liver is coping with the diet. On the other side, if the liver is struggling you would need to feed the hepatic diet and keep tabs on the cholesterol levels. This would be something to speak more with your Veterinarian as each dog’s needs are individual. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM
Look for a group in your area that assists people with their pet's needs. I have, for example, two amazing organizations where I live - Old Dog Haven; a community of people who obtain donations of food, medications, potty pads, and more to care for senior and geriatric dogs, and Beck's Place; a small group of people who bring food, litter, and grooming assistance to low-income families, who also work with several local vets to provide low or no cost vaccinations and spay/nueters. See what kinds of groups are in your area that can help you. If you're unable to care for your dog, however, sometimes the most loving thing you can do is a find a home for your furry friend where he can get the food and treatment s/he needs :/
I am retired with only SS TO live on with my service Dog and I am wondering if there is any help for us for her health care. She's over weight, low thyroid function, caughing ,scratching, panting very easily
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