What is High Cholesterol?
High cholesterol, also known as hyperlipidermia is defined by excessive amounts of fat or fatty substances increased in the bloodstream. Like in humans, cholesterol in both dogs and cats can be increased in the blood. Cholesterol is a lipid molecule – a fatty, waxy substance that the liver produces in order to digest fats from food. It is transported through large molecules called lipoproteins into the blood to the various organs.
There are four types of lipoproteins such as chylomicrons, very low density lipoproteins (VLDL), low density lipoproteins (LDL) and high density lipoproteins (HDL). Chylomicrons are tiny particles of fat and consist of triglycerides and cholesterol.
They are produced by the small intestine after your pet eats a meal and chylomicrons are absorbed 30 to 60 minutes later and increases serum triglycerides between 3 to 10 hours. If an animal has high levels of cholesterol and triglyceride for more than 12 hours after eating a meal, then he may be suffering from high cholesterol or hyperlipidermia.
An increase level of cholesterol affects dogs more than cats. Dogs and cats with high cholesterol are however not predisposed to heart disease as in people. Warning symptoms and signs such as abdominal pain, seizures, patches on the skin, yellow bumps filled with a greasy, fatty fluid and nervous system abnormalities may be an indication that your pet has high cholesterol.
What Causes High Cholesterol?
High cholesterol levels may be caused by several factors and these include an increased absorption of triglycerides or cholesterol, after eating an exceptionally fatty meal or an increase in the production of triglycerides or cholesterol.
Abnormalities in lipid clearance enzymes or lipid carrier proteins as well as a decrease clearance of triglycerides/cholesterol may also contribute to high cholesterol. In addition, obesity, degenerative kidney disease, hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, inflammation of the pancreas, diabetes mellitus, bile duct obstruction, hereditary factors and pregnancy causes high cholesterol.
Diagnosing High Cholesterol
The diagnosis will be based on the symptoms presented, thorough physical examination and a review of your pet’s medical history. Your vet will be put your pet on a strict fast for the next 12 hours. To make things easier for you, it is quite likely that your pet will be hospitalized. Certain diagnostic tests such as a complete blood count (CBC), chemical blood profile, urinalysis and a serum sample for biochemical analysis will be performed.
Further tests may be ordered to check for hypothyroidism and hyperadrenocorticism. Dogs are diagnosed with high cholesterol if triglycerides are more than 150 mg/dL and/or if cholesterol is more than 300 mg/dL. Cats are diagnosed with high cholesterol if triglycerides are more than 100 mg/dL and /or cholesterol is more than 200 mg/dL.
Help for High Cholesterol
Treatment involves changing your pet’s diet to a low fat diet (less than ten percent fat) and monitoring serum triglyceride levels to prevent acute pancreatitis.
Natural and holistic remedies can also be used to maintain healthy cholesterol levels as well as support the pancreas and liver in animals. Herbal remedies have a long history of providing excellent benefits for overall health and wellbeing when used in combination with a healthy a diet and regular exercise.
Herbal ingredients such as Vaccinium myrtillus (Billberry), Chromium picolinate, Galega offinalis (Goat’s rue), Trigonella foenum-graecum (Fenugreek) and Astragulus membranaceus acts an all-round tonic for pancreatic, liver, digestive, cardiovascular and immune system health.
More Information on High Cholesterol
Tips to prevent high cholesterol in pets
There are a number of ways to manage and prevent high cholesterol in your dog and cat and these include:
- Feed your pet high quality, commercial food or an all natural diet without preservatives, colorants or additives
- If your pet has been diagnosed with high cholesterol, change their diet to one which contains ten percent less fat
- Always provide fresh, clean water to avoid dehydration and flush out toxins
- Make sure that your pet gets regular exercise – walk your dog at twice daily and encourage him to swim. Keep your cat active by playing games such as "fetch".
- Strengthen your pet’s immune system with immune building supplements
- Disinfect your pet’s food and water bowls as well their sleeping environment to prevent infection and disease
- Detox your pet regularly to get rid of unwanted toxins
- Avoid exposing your dog or cat to irritants and toxins such as smoking, household detergents, pesticides and fertilizers
- Visit your vet regularly for routine visits to ensure overall health and wellbeing