Limping in Dogs – Hormonal causes
Not all cases of limping in dogs are directly related to the musculoskeletal system. There are other causes. The main ones are related to hormones and infection. This article will focus on the first group.
One of the most noteworthy statements that we hear in the consulting room is “it’s as though my dog suddenly got old”. There are two common hormonal disorders that older dogs are particularly susceptible to that cause limping, weakness, excess weight and skin and fur problems, which give our four-legged friends a totally aged appearance.
Here are a few clues that will help you to identify them so that you can tell your vet about it.
Cushing's Syndrome in Dogs
Also known as hyperadrenocorticism. This illness causes the body to produce more cortisol (the so-called “stress hormone·”) than normal. This hormone is produced in the suprarenal glands, which are situated just above the kidneys. It has various effects on the body, but the ones that are easiest for the owner to identify are:
- The dog’s back legs are tense and stretched out when walking.
- Loss of muscle mass throughout the body.
- Difficulty breathing and/or excessive wheezing.
- A notable increase in water intake and therefore in urine.
- A notably larger appetite.
- Loss of fur on the sides of the body and skin infections in serious cases.
- Pendulous” abdomen: this is when the stomach increases in size due to the loss of muscle mass in the area, which causes the stomach to “drop".
This syndrome is normally definitely diagnosed using special tests and an ultrasound scan. It is usually treated using medication, although in some cases, surgery is necessary.
This condition involves a decrease in thyroid hormone production, usually due to changes in the thyroid glands. The symptoms are similar to the symptoms of Cushing’s Syndrome, but there are several important differences:
- Weakness / lameness
- Cold intolerance
- Weight gain and decreased appetite
- Lack of fur on the sides of the body, the bridge of the nose and the tail.
It can normally be diagnosed by carrying out a blood test which will determine the level of thyroid hormone in the blood. In most cases it is easy to treat. Synthetic thyroid hormone is used to replace what the animal cannot produce.
There is a large number of metabolic and hormonal disorders that can affect the way a dog’s muscles function (diabetes, for example) but these two are the most common ones, and paradoxically, the ones that owners are least aware of.
Laura Perez - Ortocanis Veterinary