Saturday, February 11, 2017

Top Veterinary Articles of the Week: Hyperlipidemia, Diet and Microbiome, and more

Hyperlipidemia in Dogs & Cats – Why Worry about Cholesterol & Triglycerides?

Dr. Christopher Byers/CriticalCareDVM

Put simply, lipids is another word for fats; in this scenario, fats circulating in the blood. The two types of blood lipids are triglycerides and cholesterol. Roughly, triglycerides store energy and cholesterol is involved in hormone production and cellular function. All good stuff. But as with everything, too much of a good thing is bad.

High cholesterol in dogs typically isn't a cause of a disease, it's a result of one. Things such as diabetes, low thyroid function, Cushing's disease or kidney problems can reflect in elevated cholesterol in dogs. So while you don't need to worry about cholesterol-lowering drugs for your dog, you should want to know what is behind the abnormal cholesterol levels in your dog's blood.

Hyperlipidemia, however, has been linked to issues such as pancreatitis. It doesn't seem clear whether this is the cause or effect but there is a definite connection.

Overall, hyperlipidemia can be either primary - an inherited disorder or secondary - being caused by another disease but in any case, it is a reason for concern.

To learn more about lipids and issues related to elevated levels of lipids in the blood, read Dr. Byers' article.

Imagine having an eyelash in your eye all the time

Dr. Marty Becker

I love how Dr. Becker introduced the topic. Yes, I get an eyelash in my eye every once in a while and it is very irritating and painful. Fortunately, a stray eyelash is relatively easy to fix. But what if it was there for good?

Jasmine had this problem and her eye was not happy at all. It is called distichiasis and what happens is that an eyelash grows wrong, picking directly at the cornea.

That day we woke up and could immediately see something was wrong with Jasmine's eye. Her third eyelid seemed to have been pulled over it. I don't ever take any chances with my dogs' eyes and we took her to a vet that day. She was diagnosed with distichiasis. Because it was just one eyelash, we were offered to either have it removed with a laser or with cryosurgery. Because cryosurgery would require an appointment with an ophthalmologist, which would mean having to wait a few days, we went with the laser removal. This was done at her regular vet's office.

There is a third option which involves removing a small part of the eyelid that contains the hair follicles but since it was just one eyelash, we tried the laser removal first. Fortunately, Jasmine didn't suffer from any further renegade eyelashes.

How a dog's diet shapes its gut microbiome


"Researchers observed that dogs fed a high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet had enriched microbial gene networks associated with weight loss in humans."

The studies showing the importance of the microbiome for gut health are "popping like mushrooms after rain" (Czech phrase). When following this work I am glad that science is catching up to what holistic vets were saying all along. In other words, good health starts with the gut. Probiotic supplements are the new trend for people and dogs alike. That is all fine and dandy, but what happens with the beneficial bacteria once it's in there? Can it survive? Can it thrive? There was a relatively small experiment where one group of people were fed "normal" food and a probiotic supplement, while the other group was getting specifically designed healthy diet. At the end of the experiment, the state of the gut microbiome was examined in both groups. The people on the specific diet without any supplementation had higher levels of beneficial bacteria than those eating traditional food and a supplement. It would seem that the bacteria can sort themselves out just fine, given the chance. Which brings us to the importance of diet.

Another thing many holistic vets have been preaching is the importance of feeding "species appropriate diet." Which for dogs, means mostly animal protein, fats, and moderate levels of plant matter.  Yet, most commercial dog foods are high to very high in carbohydrates. And that in spite of the fact that the AAFCO feeding guidelines, the bible for formulating dog foods, calls for no carbohydrates whatsoever.

A long time ago I have made up my mind to go with makes sense to me, which is feeding my dogs a diet consisting of animal-source ingredients with very little select carbohydrates. And look at that, researchers from Nestle Purina, of all places, report that ratio of proteins and carbohydrates in dogs' diet has a significant influence on the gut microbiome and that dogs fed high-protein, low carbohydrate diet have a microbiome associated with weight loss in humans. Given the obesity epidemic plaguing our dogs, this is a significant finding.

For the longest time, I was asking myself why, in the light of the situation, nobody takes a look at what we're feeding our dogs and what role might diets so high in carbohydrates play in the obesity problem. Doh.

Either way, I'm glad somebody is seriously starting to look into these things.

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