The Hormonal or Endocrine System is made up of seven glands that release substances called hormones which travel in the blood stream and go to other parts of the body in order to stimulate a response. A balanced level of hormones is necessary for our bodies to function normally. Whenever there is either a lower (referred to as “hypo”) or higher (referred to as “hyper”) hormonal output than normal, the balance is disturbed and the body goes awry. The four most common hormonal disorders in dogs are Diabetes Mellitus, Hypothyroidism, Cushing Disease and Addison’s disease. Diabetes mellitus is the most common hormonal disorder in dogs, it also affects 16 million people. The problem is a lack of production of the hormone insulin by the pancreas. Insulin regulates the blood sugar. Without proper insulin levels, blood sugar can not enter the cells, so it remains in the blood and is lost into the urine. The result is a lack of nourishment for the body’s cells. Five-year-old overweight female dogs are most prone. Drinking, urinating and eating excessively are the most common initial signs. Weeks to months later cataracts may develop because the lens of the eye also requires insulin to function. Life threatening complications can result without treatment. The most common cause of diabetes is repeated bouts of pancreatic upset due to ingestion from overeating fatty foods.
OTHER COMMON HORMONE DISORDERS
- The thyroid gland produces thyroid hormones which control the metabolic rate or the speed at which the body functions. Hypothyroidism is the result of underproduction of thyroid hormone. The cause is often unknown. Occasionally the body’s immune system destroys the gland. Signs include patches of hair loss which are evenly distributed on each side of the dogs body and occur without itching; weight gain without an increase in appetite; lethargy; dry flaky skin; and ear infections. Signs develop slowly over several months to a year and most owners just think their dog is getting old. Middle-aged Golden Retrievers, Cocker Spaniels, Irish Setters and Dobermans seem to be prone.
- Overproduction of the antiflammatory hormone cortisol by the adrenal glands causes Cushing’s Disease. Excessive eating, drinking and urinating are the primary signs. Later lethargy, a distended pot-bellied abdomen and symmetrical hair loss also occur. Poodles, Dachshunds, Boston Terriers, German Shepards and Golden Retrievers are genetically predisposed. Middle to older aged dogs are typically affected.
- A lack of cortisol production by the adrenal glands results in Addison’s Disease. Initial signs are somewhat vague but may include vomiting, diarrhea and weakness. Deficient cortisol levels cause the ratio between sodium and potassium to become imbalanced which can result in shock and death without prompt treatment.
WHAT YOU AND YOUR VET CAN DO
- Diagnosis of diabetes is by blood and urine tests which detect elevated sugar. There is no cure, but insulin replacement is an effective control. Insulin requirements can change and must be monitored daily for life; too much or too little insulin can cause life-threatening seizures.
- To keep insulin requirements consistent, meals are given twice a day at the same time 30 minutes prior to injections. Snacks should be avoided and exercise should remain consistent. Neutering is recommended because reproductive cycles alter insulin requirements. Since diabetes has a hereditary link, neutering also helps prevent transmission to future generations. Properly regulated diabetic dogs can lead long healthy lives, but their owners must be prepared to make a serious commitment to the treatment.
- Diagnosis of hypothyroidism is made by a blood test that detects decreased levels of thyroid hormone. While thyroid disease is not curable, it can be controlled with oral thyroid hormone replacement, which is safe, effective and relatively inexpensive. Lifelong replacement is generally needed and most owners are pleasantly surprised to see their old dog rejuvenated after 8-12 weeks. Hair regrows, body weight decreases, ear problems clear up and energy levels increase.
- Blood tests are diagnostic for Addison ‘s disease and specific medication controls the problem.
- There are three types of Cushing Disease in dogs. Diagnostics and treatment options vary accordingly.
COMPLEMENTARY TREATMENTS ALL FOR DIABETES
Diabetes Therapy is geared to lower and stabilize blood sugar and increase the body’s sensitivity to insulin.
- Fish Oils
- Vanadium, 0.1 mg per pound once daily, or Vanadyl Sulfate, ½ mg per pound once daily, helps to stabilize blood sugar.
- Gymnema Sylvestre
- Panax Ginseng
- Vitamin E, C
- Pancreatic Glandulars
Kelp is a source of iodine and may be used as a trace mineral supplement. Kelp is contraindicated in certain (autoimmune) types of Thyroid Disease because it may stimulate further destruction of the thyroid gland by the body. In most cases of Hypothyroidism in dogs, the exact cause is not known and, in these cases, Kelp should be avoided.
Phosphorus 6x one pellet on the tongue once daily for 30 days for diabetes. For hypothyroidism, try Nux vomica 30c daily for five days. If not effective try Thuga 30c once daily for five days.