Hormonal or endocrine diseases are fairly common in dogs and cats. The most common ones can be easily treated especially when diagnosed early. The most common one in dogs is hypothyroidism when the thyroid gland is not producing enough thyroid. It occurs in middle age to older dogs and many breeds and mix breed are affected. Symptoms are varied but usually include a propensity to be overweight, sluggish demeanor, unthrifty coat and skin condition, warmth seekers, and neurologic symptoms including seizures. It is treated with inexpensive thyroid supplements. The most common endocrine disease in cats is hyperthyroidism which is the overabundance of thyroid hormone due to a thyroid tumor. Thyroid hormone controls metabolism, and if there is an excess, the pets metabolic rate is in “over-drive” causing symptoms of weight loss (sometimes dramatic) despite a ravenous appetite leading to debilitation in extreme cases. Hyperthyroidism is often associated with heart problems (cardiomyopathy) and renal disease (chronic renal failure). Sometimes the enlarged thyroid gland can be palpated on the cervical area. The gold standard of treatment is radioactive iodine which requires a referral to an approved facility. Other options include surgical removal of the enlarged cancerous thyroid and the lifelong administration of methimazole which lowers the thyroid levels. Diagnosis is easy with simple blood tests that measure thyroid levels.
Diabetes mellitus typically starts in middle aged dogs and cats. Many breeds and mixed breed pets can be affected. The causes are multifactorial but obesity is a predisposing factor. Most but not all pets diagnosed with diabetes are initially overweight and then experience a rapid weight loss. Other text book symptoms include polydipsia (excessive water drinking) and polyuria (increased urine output). As symptoms progress, they can have loss of appetite and GI symptoms especially vomiting due to renal effects that may include renal failure. It also can cause liver failure and be accompanied by pancreatitis symptoms. Clinical cases of diabetes typically include severe dehydration and electrolyte imbalances. Chronic diabetes can lead to cataracts. Similar to hypo and hyperthyroidism, diagnosing diabetes is relatively simple via routine blood tests that measure glucose levels. Borderline cases are sorted out using urinalysis to assess the urine glucose levels. Normally glucose should not be found in the urine, and with diabetes the urine glucose is high. The hallmark of treatment is the use of insulin injections. Severely ill patients require comprehensive blood tests that determine major organ function and guides treatment decisions that typically involve aggressive fluid therapy and correction of multiple electrolyte and acid /base imbalances. In addition to insulin, diet is an important aspect of treatment and successful long term management. There are prescription foods that are especially formulated for diabetic patients that are very effective. In fact, a well-managed diabetic cat can improve to the extent they are no longer insulin dependent and only require nutritional treatment. However, canine diabetics typically require life-long insulin injections.
Thyroid hormonal disease and diabetes mellitus are the most common endocrine diseases seen in dogs and cats. If diagnosed early by using recommended annual screenings, the treatment is relatively easy and the consequences minimized thus enabling a long, happy, and healthy lifetime for your beloved pet.