We talk about hormone imbalances in people all the time – yet the language seems to be different when it comes to pets. Should we talk about hormones problems in pets and are the health connections the same?

We actually do have quite a bit of similarity between “hormone“ problems in people and “endocrine“ problems in pets; for some reason, it’s a different word even though the condition and the way that it develops is just about the same. To be clear, pets do have hormones and humans have endocrine disorders. We just prefer to use the word hormone imbalance for humans and endocrine disorder in animals.

They are the same thing.

Endocrine/hormone systems commonly out of balance in dogs and cats include the thyroid, adrenal, pituitary glands and glucose metabolism. (I’m not a human doctor, but I understand these are the same hormone imbalances that humans deal with.)

Regardless of species, these systems can be overactive or underactive.

The point of this article is not to discuss the specifics of these disease conditions; the point is to discuss why hormone/endocrine issues are so common in pets.

The largest culprit in endocrine disorders in our pets is their environment.

Most of us, when we think of environment, we think of our surroundings. We look around us and we look at our room or where we live. But environment is what we eat and drink. Think about what you do for your dogs or cats – the biggest thing you do is feed them.

The quality of the ingredients and the constant stress from low quality ingredients are the main culprits in endocrine disorders for cats and dogs. “Nutrient quality” includes those extra additives that supposedly make things safe yet interfere with body function. For example, fluoride and chlorine in the water interfere with iodine function in the body. Therefore, thyroid function may become a problem simply depending on water our pets drink.

People are often shocked to find that while they buy expensive pet food, the ingredients are still inferior; in the case of kibble, the ingredients are almost without question “upcycled“ human food waste. (Upcycling is the latest food term for “recycled waste” that is meant to sound good when in truth it is very bad.) So, when some food item is rotten, diseased, or otherwise unfit for human consumption, it goes to pet food. These unacceptable ingredients create stress on our pets’ bodies. The stress then contributes to adrenal disease.

The other major environmental stressor is incredibly high carbohydrate diets. Again, almost without question, a kibble diet is often 75% carbohydrate. This high carbohydrate, poor quality ingredient food is putting major stress on the body and will affect the adrenal glands – the results can either be low function or over function – Addison’s disease or Cushing’s disease.

One further issue with high carbohydrate diet is that the body’s sugar metabolism, via insulin and the pancreas is also very stressed. Insulin is needed to help the body use iodine correctly in the production of thyroid hormone. So when the body is stressed with too much carbohydrate, contributing to adrenal dysfunction, it can also affect the thyroid gland.

When you read back through what I just wrote, it almost seems circular. One hormone imbalance affects another hormone imbalance. And yet this is entirely accurate. Hormone control originates in the pituitary gland in the brain – if the signals coming in are confused, the pituitary will send out confused signals – compounding the effects of hormone/endocrine imbalance.

There are other environmental causes of hormone imbalance: second and third hand smoke, air pollution, lawn chemicals, all of the chemicals that are used to “prevent” heartworm disease and flea and tick infestation, and more. No one wants bugs in their house, but at the same time no one wants to know that the chemical they’re using to prevent the bugs is leading to a life-threatening disease in their dog or cat. There are also issues with “endocrine disrupters.” These are common household and food borne chemicals that directly interfere with the endocrine system. It’s as simple as avoiding “BPA” water bottles. The list goes on…

One big difference for pets than humans – we neuter almost all of our pets. Spay/castration is pretty much not practiced in humans in modern society. Historical comments aside, removal of the sex organs changes how the body manages its endocrine state. The last thing we need is rampant pet overpopulation, but it’s worth considering allowing pets to develop their reproductive tracts a little bit until we remove them; this could have huge hormonal benefits.

Endocrine disorders are very complex diseases. The point here is not to cause overwhelm. The point is to begin the dialogue, start the mental wheels turning. These disorders have a very strong dietary component – diet and water is always the best starting point.

If your pet already has an endocrine disorder, there are natural things that can be done to reduce some of the clinical signs. If your pet isn’t there yet, but you’re concerned about stressors in his environment, contact your holistic veterinarian.

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