Dog hormone diseases are common in every breed of dog, every age dog and in both male and female dogs. Irregularities in your dog’s endocrine or hormonal system can wreak havoc with your dog’s body and make him very ill.
What Part Does the Endocrine System Play in Dog Diseases?
The endocrine system is a group of glands and organs in your Weimaraner’s body. These glands produce chemical messengers or compounds are called hormones. You are probably familiar with hormones like insulin which controls blood sugars prevents diabetes in dogs. And female dogs also have estrogen and progesterone, which influence their reproductive systems.
Hormones are made of proteins or fatty substances called steroids. Most often, glands make hormones and then release them into your dog’s blood. However, some organs, the heart, kidneys and liver, in particular, also make and release hormones.
Some hormones act on one organ or tissue in your dog’s body, while others affect almost every cell in your dog’s body.
Hormones Play a Balancing Act in Your Weimaraner
While hormones play an important part in your dog’s health, your dog’s blood only contains very small amounts of each one. This means that laboratory tests to measure your dog’s hormone levels, must be very sensitive.
This is important, because the amount of a hormone needed any organ or tissue is very precise. If your Weimaraner has too little or too much of a hormone, a hormonal disorder will develop.
As your dog gets older, he is more likely to develop a hormone disease. This is because an older dog has had natural wear and tear on his endocrine glands. Also, senior dogs are more likely to get auto-immune diseases which influence the dog’s endocrine system.
Amazingly, a single hormone that is out of balance, can affect several of your dog’s body systems and functions, causing a number of symptoms.
Hormonal Diseases in Dogs
Your dog’s body has a complicated system in place that balances her hormones. For example, hormones in her body work to regulate your dog’s temperature and keep blood sugars under control.
Sometimes there are pairs of hormones, working against each other, to maintain the balance.
What Causes Hormone Imbalances?
Tumors – A tumor or growth in an endocrine gland often causes that gland to produce too much of its hormone. An example of this is hyperadrenocorticism or Cushing’s disease.
Injury to a gland – When an endocrine gland is destroyed or weakened, too little hormone is produced. Diseases caused by an under-production of a hormone begin with the prefix “hypo”. An example of this is hypothyroidism, where the thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormones.
Mixed signals – A tumor that is outside the endocrine system can produce a substance that mimics a hormone. When this happens, your dog’s body is confused and it responds to the fake hormone.
Auto-immune diseases – In this case, the disease causes a dog’s body to attack its own organs or systems because it falsely identifies some of its own tissues as foreign and destroys the tissue cells.
Change in response – Sometimes a gland or tissue in your dog’s body does not respond normally. For example, with diabetes mellitus, a dog still produces insulin but the dog’s body no longer responds to it. We often see this condition in overweight dogs.
Examples of Dog Hormone Diseases
Veterinarians classify dog hormone diseases, based on the dog’s gland or system affected.
Adrenal Gland Disorders
The adrenal glands in a dog are located just in front of the kidneys.
Cushing’s Disease – Most often seen in older dogs, Cushing’s disease is caused by the production of too much cortisol. In up to 90% of, a tumor on the pituitary gland causes Cushing’s disease.
Addison’s Disease – Addison’s is caused by the production of too little cortisol in a dog. This disorder is usually diagnosed in dogs that are young to middle-aged. Addison’s disease symptoms can develop slowly. When a dog has an Addisonian adrenal crisis it is a life-threatening emergency.
Pheochromocytomas – Pheochromocytomas are tumors of the adrenal medulla, which is part of the adrenal glands. The adrenal medulla produces epinephrine (also known as adrenaline) and norepinephrine. Both of these serve to increase heart output, blood pressure and blood glucose and they slow digestion. Often a pet parent does not see signs of this, and a vet discovers the tumor during treatment for other conditions.
Disorders of the Pancreas
The pancreas is made of several kinds of cells, each having its own purpose or function. The hormones produced in the pancreas serve to aid digestion and to control blood sugars.
Diabetes mellitus – Most common in middle-aged dogs, diabetes strikes female dogs twice as often as males and can affect any breed. Diabetes is a disorder that affects the digestion of carbohydrates. It is caused by a deficiency of insulin or by insulin resistance. You can see diabetes symptoms here.
Functional Islet Cell Tumors – Tumors in the islet cells of the pancreas cause this condition. They make and secrete the hormones normally controlled by the pancreas. A dog with these tumors will have low blood sugar, periodic seizures, and may have temperament changes like agitation.
Pituitary Gland Disorders
The pituitary gland is located at the center and bottom of your dog’s brain. This gland is so important that it is often called, the “Master Gland” of the body. The pituitary gland produces a number of different hormones.
Cushing’s disease – Caused by too much cortisol, Cushing’s symptoms develop most often in middle-aged to old dogs. Because Cushing’s can have many different symptoms, it is hard to diagnose. Cushing’s is caused by a tumor on the pituitary gland, a tumor on the adrenal glands or by excessive steroids which were prescribed for another condition like arthritis. Dogs sometimes find relief with natural treatments for Cushing’s.
Adult-onset Panhypopituitarism – This occurs when the pituitary gland is compressed or damaged by a tumor, infection or injury. We see this most often in older dogs. A dog with this condition may show a change in attitude (not obeying commands), and they may become shy and hide. A dog may drink huge amounts of water and urinate a lot, sometimes becoming incontinent in the house.
Juvenile-onset Panhypopituitarism – This is when the front part of the pituitary gland does not develop or its growth is interrupted by a tumor. This leads to a lack of growth hormone. Juvenile-onset panhypopuitarism is a genetic disorder and is inherited. Puppies will grow normally until they are about 2 months old. After that, they will grow more slowly than their litter mates, and they will keep their puppy coats. Eventually they lose all their hair, and they never develop permanent teeth.
Thyroid Gland Disorders
Hypothyroidism – Most often seen in middle-aged to older dogs, hypothyroidism is a lack of thyroid hormone production. This condition slows metabolism and affects the function of all your dog’s organ systems. Your dog will gain weight, lose hair and may be sensitive to cold weather.
Hyperthyroidism – The opposite of hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism is too much thyroid hormone in your dog’s system. With this condition, your dog will lose weight, eat more and have an increased heart rate.
Hyperparathyroidism – The parathyroid glands work closely with the thyroid gland in dogs. They both control calcium levels in the blood. When a dog has hyperparathyroidism, he has too little calcium in his blood. This condition often leads to lameness, weakness, bone deformities and spontaneous bone fractures.
Dogs of all ages, male or female, and of any breed get hormone disorders. They symptoms are wide and varied and they affect every system of a dog’s body.
And, because the balance of hormones in a dog’s body is so delicate, your vet will need to do lab tests to see your dog has a hormone imbalance.