Hyperlipidaemia and Pancreatitis

Hyperlipidaemia is quite a common problem seen mainly in Schnauzers, particularly Miniature Schnauzers, and also in Beagles.

Hyperlipidaemia means an excess of lipids (fats) in the blood. Triglycerides and cholesterol are the most common fats to be elevated. It’s very normal to have a surge of fats into the blood stream after eating but this should be cleared in 6-10 hours. In animals with hyperlipidaemia, the fat level of the blood remains elevated all the time. And this is not good!

Sustained high fat levels in the blood are a problem because it predisposes the pet to other diseases. In particular, pancreatitis is a real worry for these dogs. The pancreas secretes digestive enzymes into the intestine. In pancreatitis it becomes inflamed and release digestive enzymes into itself – essentially digesting itself! This is very painful and disease can be really serious. Dogs with hyperlipidaemia are also at risk of disease in their eye diseases. Development of diabetes later in life is also more likely. Gut signs, such as vomiting, diarrhoea, tummy pain, bloating and loss of appetite can also be seen. None of this is good for your dog. The good news is that we can screen dogs for hyperlipidaemia and with lifestyle management changes; much of this can be avoided!

In humans, we often associate elevated triglyceride and cholesterol levels with heart disease. The good news is that due to the different fat metabolism of dogs and cats they are not at risk of this particularly nasty area of disease. Yay!

Hyperlipidaemia may be secondary to another disease, such as Cushing’s disease or an under active thyroid gland. It these diseases are treated, the hyperlipidaemia normally resolves.

In some pets, Schnauzers and Beagles in particular, hyperlipidaemia is called idiopathic. This just means that we don’t yet understand why these breeds are at risk. The underlying cause is thought to be genetic.

Regular Blood Testing

So who needs to be checked? We recommend that all older Schnauzers, particularly miniature Schnauzers, have a fasting blood test at least annually. Up to 30% of dogs are thought to be affected with hyperlipidaemia. Identifying if your dog is at risk is just so important. Beagles should also be screened as the disease is overrepresented in this breed as well.

If your dog is found to have hyperlipidaemia don’t despair. The important thing is to KNOW about this BEFORE it causes a problem. Low fat diets are often all that is required to prevent serious consequences. For those dogs that fail to respond to dietary management there are good medication options available.

Do you have a beautiful Schnauzer or Beagle? Have they been screened? If not, book them in today. An ounce of prevention is just so much better than the alternative!