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canine health problems
Metabolic diseases in dogs

The essentials

  • Metabolism refers to processes that turn substances into energy — Diabetes mellitus, thyroid disease, and Cushing’s disease are a few of the most commonly diagnosed canine metabolic disorders.
  • Metabolic disease in dogs typically requires lifelong treatment — Dogs can often live with metabolic disease, but they will usually need to take medication daily for the rest of their lives.
  • Where possible, prevention is the best medicine — Age and genetics are among the risk factors for metabolic disease in dogs. Obesity can also increase a dog’s chances, so weight loss or management may be essential.

What is a metabolic disease?

You’ve likely heard about metabolism in human beings. It refers to the chemical reactions that occur within the body when food turns into energy, and it can affect a person’s ability to gain or lose weight. Dogs also have a metabolic system, and it functions similarly as in humans. When a pup consumes protein, the body breaks it down into amino acids that play a role in many metabolic reactions. Like humans, dogs can develop a variety of metabolic diseases.

Some metabolic diseases in dogs are triggered by hormones, such as cortisol and insulin. Sometimes, a metabolic disease in dogs will affect one organ, such as the thyroid. These metabolic disorders can be systemic and have body-wide effects, including weight gain and hair loss.

Other disorders, particularly inherited errors of metabolism (IEM), occur when an enzyme deficiency or dysfunction disrupts metabolic function. In IEMs, the issue with the enzyme blocks the dog’s metabolic pathways and triggers other symptoms, including failure to thrive, vomiting, and lethargy.

Common metabolic diseases in dogs

Several types of metabolic diseases can occur in dogs. Getting an accurate diagnosis from a veterinarian is an important first step toward effective management.

  • Thyroid disorders. An overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism ) speeds up a pet’s metabolism. An underactive one (hypothyroidism ) slows it down. Hypothyroidism can occur if the immune system attacks the thyroid, causing inflammation or shrinkage of the thyroid, or in rare cases, cancer.
  • Diabetes. This common endocrine disease affects about 1 in 300 dogs. It happens when a dog’s pancreas cannot make enough insulin. Insulin helps transport glucose into cells, and the cells use glucose for energy. Dogs with diabetes will have trouble controlling their blood glucose levels.
  • Cushing’s disease. There are two types of Cushing’s disease. Typical Cushing’s disease occurs when the adrenal glands, which are located above the kidneys, overproduce the hormone cortisol. Dogs develop atypical Cushing’s disease if the dog fits the clinical description of Cushing’s disease, but test results from ACTH stim and LDDS come back normal. In these cases, a dog’s adrenal glands are overproducing sex hormones rather than cortisol.
  • Addison’s disease. Dogs with Addison’s disease have a deficiency of hormones like cortisol and aldosterone, a steroid.
  • Adrenal tumors. Adrenal tumors are rare, affecting fewer than 1% of dogs, but they happen when the growth of a tumor develops in the adrenal glands. If a malignant tumor spreads, it can affect the liver, pancreas, and kidneys. In rare cases, the tumor can spread to the liver, lymph nodes, blood vessels, and lungs.
  • Lysosomal storage diseases. These disorders are the most common inherited metabolic disorder and are the result of an enzyme deficiency. Lysosomal storage disorders typically occur in puppies and cats. German shepherds are one breed prone to lysosomal storage disorders. A complete blood count, urine samples, and enzyme measure are three ways to diagnose these conditions.

👉In some cases, it might be possible to prevent certain metabolic diseases with the right diet. A diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids aids, for example, aids in healthy metabolism.

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Causes of metabolic diseases in dogs

A dog can inherit a metabolic disease, but that’s not always the case. Sometimes, other underlying conditions can contribute. For example, obese dogs can be more prone to diabetes. Older dogs are also often more at-risk at developing Cushing’s disease.

Scientists are still investigating the causes of some metabolic diseases in dogs, such as Addison’s. However, the breed of an animal may play a role. For example, Great Danes and standard poodles are among the breeds more susceptible to developing Addison’s disease.

Symptoms of metabolic diseases in dogs

Each metabolic disease has its own set of clinical signs and symptoms, and a veterinarian is the best person to evaluate your dog. However, understanding the most common symptoms can help you seek out a diagnosis. Early detection and treatment may lead to better health outcomes.

👉 If your dog shows signs of a metabolic disorder, visit your veterinarian right away. A vet can evaluate the dog through blood tests and urine samples to help determine any next steps.

Treating metabolic diseases in dogs

Untreated metabolic diseases can damage tissues and put your pet at risk for other health problems. Sometimes, conditions like diabetes can increase the risk of the development of cardiovascular diseases. Others, like Cushing’s disease, can weaken the muscles and affect mobility.

The good news is that modern veterinary medicine has come a long way, and dogs with a metabolic syndrome can lead normal lives with proper treatment. Often, daily medication will be prescribed for the rest of a dog’s life. For example, many dogs with diabetes develop insulin resistance and need regular insulin injections to regulate blood glucose levels. Surgery may be required to remove tumors.

Weight control

It may also be important to learn how to maintain your pet’s body weight through proper nutrition and increased physical activity. A vet can provide more information on the best treatment for your pet.

DHA as contained in ZipZyme™ Omega has been documented to raise the basal metabolic rate (BMR), burning calories even while a pet is resting. When the metabolism is balanced and cravings are curbed, overweight dogs may find it easier to move around and be more inclined toward engaging in an increased activity level which may in turn encourage additional weight loss.

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Frequently asked questions

What are three symptoms of metabolic syndrome?

Increased thirst, increased appetite, and increased urination are three common signs of metabolic disease in dogs.

What is an example of a metabolic disease in animals?

Diabetes is one example of a metabolic disease in animals, but several others exist. A veterinarian can run diagnostic tests to determine if your dog has a metabolic disease.

How do you treat metabolic disorders?

It depends on the metabolic disease, but veterinarians will also prescribe drugs. Your dog will need to take these drugs for the rest of their lives.

What causes diabetes in dogs?

Diabetes in dogs occurs when the pancreas cannot produce enough insulin. There are several risk factors, including visceral obesity (excess weight around the midsection) and age. It’s important to know that animals of any size may develop diabetes, including small dogs. Treatment is important because diabetes increases a pup’s risk of other issues, including kidney disease and heart disease. Preventing unnecessary weight gain is one way to reduce your pup’s risk of diabetes.