Our pets get hormonal problems too


OUT OF KILTER? If your pet is out of sorts, they could be suffering from an endocrine disorder.

The vet's view
Conal Finnerty

Hormonal problems in pets are more commonly referred to as endocrine disorders, and they are both many and varied. In some cases, they can also be complex to diagnose and treat successfully.
Similar to us humans, pets have a number of endocrine organs throughout the body, which together make up the endocrine system. These organs include the master gland in the brain, the pituitary, the thyroid and the para-thyroid in the neck region through to the adrenal glands, part of the pancreas and the sex-related glands, the ovaries and the testicles. And these are just the major ones, there are others.
As you can appreciate because there are multiple organs that make up the hormonal system, each of them alone can cause illness if not functioning properly. More frustratingly, they can impact each other’s functions and so, together, can cause disease also, as a combination of two or more not functioning correctly. This phenomenon is why endocrine disorders can, in pets, be hard to diagnose and treat.
The most common endocrine disorders in dogs that we see are Cushing’s disease (a dis-function of the either the pituitary or the adrenal glands, or both – hence the problem of complexity mentioned above); hypothyroidism (again a poorly performing thyroid gland or a thyroid gland influenced by another external source) and diabetes mellitus. In cats, the most frequent endocrine presentations are hyperthyroidism and diabetes mellitus.
Endocrine or hormonal diseases can be broadly categorised into one of two groups: those diseases that result from the overproduction of a hormone or those where an underproduction is at play.
Proper diagnosis usually involves (but is not exclusive to) a good clinical history from the owner, a detailed clinical examination of the patient, relevant blood tests and scans of the endocrine organ(s) suspected to be involved.
In the case of overproduction, treatment can involve surgical removal of the gland or drug treatment to regulate production of the hormone involved. In the case of an underproduction, treatment can involve supplementary hormones, usually administered in the form of medication, be it oral or injectable.
As is the case with humans, endocrine disorders in pets more often than not require continued monitoring of the treatments given and the patient’s response to them, as treatment protocols can and often do need to be altered as time goes by, due to such factors as age, diet, the influence of other non-endocrine ailments and so on. Unfortunately, these conditions can and do often require lifelong treatment, and this can sometimes be a barrier to longevity and long-term success.
The diagnosis and successful treatment of endocrine disorders in our pets has come a long way over the past ten years, but these conditions still remain complex and sometimes difficult to manage successfully.
As always, if you notice that your pet is out of kilter, or if you suspect they might be suffering from a hormonal issue, don’t hesitate to mention it to your vet.

Veterinarian Conal Finnerty MRCVS practises at the Skeldale Vet Clinic in Ballinrobe and Belmullet. Follow the clinic on Facebook, or call 094 9541980 or 087 9185350 to make an appointment.