Cholesterol numbers began rising about the time people quit doing as much manual labor and switched eating habits to refined, processed, fast foods. (Note: Animals for the most part are being fed refined, processed, and fast foods.) Then cholesterol really started getting a bad wrap about the time pharmaceutical companies released the first statin compound for lowering cholesterol. That is well and good from an empirical perspective, but what is it really an indicator of and why would it rise in the first place? What is the body telling us?
Cholesterol is an indicator of adrenal and thyroid gland, liver, and gall bladder function. These organs function more or less relative to what they are being fed or exposed to. This includes STRESS. This is why a body can be slender and appear athletic and still have elevated cholesterol levels. Stress signals the adrenal glands to make cortisol, the fright or flight hormone. Cholesterol is a necessary component in the production of cortisol. The more stress one perceives in life, the more cholesterol the adrenal glands stock pile in order to be ready for the next round of cortisol. It is like ammunition for the potential future emergency of survival. Stress in animals can be inclement weather, lack of the right nutrients, separation anxiety, being confined too much, not enough exercise, pain, pack issues, too much exercise, to mention a few.
The liver is the organ that synthesizes and releases cholesterol into the blood at the command of the adrenals. It then synthesizes bile salts from some of the cholesterol, which are secreted into the bile for breaking down fats in the meal. Plasma cholesterol will be picked back up by the liver and secreted out of the body in the bile. If the liver and gall bladder are not functioning optimally or a poor diet is eaten, cholesterol can precipitate forming gallstones. Poor diet for a person would be too many fatty foods. However for a dog, which uses fats as its first energy source, this is not the case. Too many diets are actually heavy laden in carbohydrates (30-50% in dry foods versus 15% in a dog’s archetype diet) and deficient in fats. This leads to obesity, poor coats, poor protein assimilation, inflammation, and a list of other problems.
Both being endocrine organs and a part of the autonomic nervous system, thyroid function closely correlates with adrenal gland function and stress factors. The thyroid gland is the generator of the body. Without its input things begin to run slow. We can see this as poor coat, oily skin, body odor, fur loss, and chronic infections. Of course, by the time you see these symptoms the problem has been going on a long time. Diets heavy in soy bean will reduce thyroid activity. Low calcium precipitates a reduced activity. Chronic stress, parasites, virus or bacterial infections, dental disease, and adrenal overrun will wear out the thyroid too.
Why is cholesterol high?
- Inadequate diet, low calcium and zinc, too many carbohydrates
- Endocrine exhaustion affecting the adrenal and thyroid glands
- Liver and gall bladder over worked and under fed
- Stress, stress, stress
What can you do to help your animals?
Giving a statin drug is not the answer. Just as in humans they have negative effects on muscle and liver function. Plus this sends the adrenals into an even bigger call to arms when it detects cholesterol reserves are low. Not good.
- Get a Fur Mineral Analysis test to see how he stacks up
- Adjust the diet to better fit his needs
- Supplement where indicated
- Reduce stress (This means you too. Your animals will pick up your emotions and mimic in themselves what is going on in you!)
- Exercise to the level that both of you can benefit
© Integrative Veterinary Education, Inc.