It’s an egg-scelent time to talk about the Endocrine System!

And with a blink of the eye – Easter is here! Feels like only yesterday we were writing about Christmas! Everyone here at MBVC would like to send their warm wishes to all our blog readers, hoping you all have a safe yet wonderful Easter with your families! It’s a good time to remind you to take extra care for your furry friends as well, as we know how this time of the year can spell trouble for them. Be mindful about where you’re hiding those Easter eggs, as we don’t want your four-legged children to find them and eat them.

Chocolate contains a derivative of caffeine called theobromine that cannot be metabolised by our pets, particularly dogs. Make sure to look out for these symptoms if you think your pet has snuck a Cadbury egg or two:

  • Hyperactivity
  • Tremors
  • Panting
  • Racing heartbeat
  • Vomiting & diarrhoea
  • Seizures
  • Sudden death

Chocolate poisoning mostly affects our pet’s gastrointestinal system, central nervous system and kidneys. Symptoms usually start to show from 4-24 hours after your dog has eaten chocolate. The concentration of theobromine varies depending on the type of chocolate. Cocoa powder, dark chocolate and baking chocolate all contain higher levels of theobromine compared to milk chocolate. The toxicity of theobromine is dose-related and therefore smaller amounts of dark chocolate need to be eaten to reach this toxic dose. This means the overall effect of the chocolate ingestion on the dog depends on the size of the dog, the amount of chocolate eaten and they type of chocolate eaten.

Along with chocolate, we also need to be careful about our pets ingesting Hot Cross Buns (the sultanas are toxic to our animals) as well as the beautiful Easter Lillie’s, which if eaten can cause kidney failure in cats. Keeping all these scary things in mind, we still want you to be able to enjoy your long weekend and not spend it worrying about your furry ones!

Now that my mouth is watering and my brain is thinking about chocolate, let’s talk about this month’s topic – Endocrine Diseases! It’s not something we’ve written about before, but it’s something that we deal with frequently here at the clinic.

The Endocrine system is in charge of storing and releasing hormones, which are chemical substances that regulate the activity of cells or organs. The system is made up of glands that produce and secrete these hormones. Therefore, when our pet has an Endocrine disease, it’s relating to the imbalances of their hormone levels. Although some endocrine disorders are not life threatening, many are fatal if not diagnosed and treated.

Diseases can develop because a gland itself is faulty or because the control of that gland is fault. Endocrine diseases develop when the body produces too much hormone (hyper) or too little hormone (hypo). Some of the main diseases we see at the clinic include:

  • Cushing’s disease – also known as hyperadrenocorticism, is a condition that dogs get when their bodies over-produce cortisol (a hormone involved with responding to stress and modulating the immune system). It affects middle age-older dogs, and can show symptoms which include increased thirst, hunger and urination, pot-bellied abdomen, loss of hair, lack of energy and muscle weakness.
  • Hyperthyroidism- is a disease caused by overproduction of thyroxine, a thyroid hormone that increases metabolism in the body. This is commonly seen in cats more than dogs. Symptoms can include weight loss, increased appetite, unkempt appearance, poor body condition, vomiting, diarrhoea, increased thirst, increased urinating, and rapid or difficulty breathing.
  • Hypothyroidism – As you can probably guess, hypothyroidism is a condition where the body doesn’t release as much hormone as they should – in this case the hormones known as T3 and T4 which again help regulate our pets’ body’s metabolism. It is more common to see this in medium to large-sized dogs. Symptoms can include lethargy, generalized weakness, not being as active, mental dullness, unexplained weight gain, hair loss/excessive hair shedding, poor hair growth, dry or lustreless coat.
  • Diabetes - as with people, Diabetes Mellitus is caused by a lack of insulin in the body, or the body’s inability to respond to insulin. Insulin is produced in the pancreas and allows our pets’ body’s cells to use glucose from the blood for energy. Without insulin, the body is forced to use energy sources other than glucose which can lead to a build-up of toxins in the blood. Symptoms include increased thirst and increased urination, increased appetite with variable weight changes, depression, lethargy, vomiting, sweet ‘acetone’ smelling breath, dehydration and cataracts in the eyes.

The nice thing to know after reading all of that, is there are treatments available for all these conditions. Our furry friends can have blood tests and other diagnostic work done to determine if they are having issues with their hormone production- The key is early detection! Some pets can live a reasonably happy life, but may need to be on medication for the rest of their lives and will need regular vet visits to make sure they are keeping well.

We hope you all have a safe and fun-filled Easter! Until next blog!