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What is High Cholesterol?

Hyperlipidemia refers to the elevation in blood lipids (fats) and is fairly common in dogs. After a dog eats a meal, triglycerides and cholesterol levels rise in the blood and then come back down to normal levels again within 3-10 hours. However, in hyperlipidemia, fat levels remain high for over 12 hours. Several metabolic diseases demonstrate hyperlipidemia, including diabetes, hypothyroidism and Cushing’s syndrome. Some dog breeds are genetically predisposed to hyperlipidemia. Hyperlipidemia does not normally lead to heart disease, but can decrease lifespan and cause obesity, neurologic and metabolic issues. Hyperlipidemia is a condition in which the amount of fats (also called lipids) in the blood are elevated. The most important lipids are cholesterol and triglyceride. Hyperlipidemia is a common and under-diagnosed dog health problem that can negatively impact health and longevity.

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High Cholesterol Average Cost

From 318 quotes ranging from $500 - $1,200

Average Cost

$750

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
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Bloated abdomen
  • Cloudy eyes
  • Fatty deposits under the skin
  • Hair loss
  • Itching
  • Seizures
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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.

Types

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)
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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.

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Treatment of High Cholesterol in Dogs

Dietary Change

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.

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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.

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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.

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High Cholesterol Average Cost

From 318 quotes ranging from $500 - $1,200

Average Cost

$750

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High Cholesterol Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Maizy

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Maltipoo

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4 Years

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Stomach Sounds

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?

July 26, 2017

Maizy's Owner


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0 Recommendations

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

July 26, 2017

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.

June 10, 2018

Tryniti T.

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Gabby

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American Pit Bull Terrier

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3

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Serious severity

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0 found helpful

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Dramatic Weight Loss

My dog has low triglycerides. WhAt can be done for this?

July 26, 2017

Gabby's Owner


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0 Recommendations

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

July 26, 2017

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.

June 10, 2018

Tryniti T.

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High Cholesterol Average Cost

From 318 quotes ranging from $500 - $1,200

Average Cost

$750

Vet bills can sneak up on you.

Plan ahead. Get the pawfect insurance plan for your pup.

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