Internal Medicine Service: Endocrine Diseases

The endocrine system of the body is the system of glands that produce hormones vital to normal growth and metabolism. Endocrine diseases refer to diseases in which these glands are either producing too much of a hormone, or not enough. This excess of lack of hormone can lead to symptoms which the Purdue Small Animal Internal Medicine service can manage through a variety a medical and interventional means. Some examples of endocrine diseases include those that affect the adrenal glands, the thyroid glands, and the pancreas (specifically Diabetes Mellitus).

 

Adrenal Gland Diseases

The adrenal glands produce a variety of hormones like cortisol, aldosterone, sex hormones, and adrenaline. The formation of these hormones is coordinated by an intricate mechanism starting in the pituitary gland of the brain. There are certain diseases in dogs and cats that are characterized by an overproduction of these hormones, including hyperadrenocorticism (also called Cushings Disease). These diseases can lead to a variety of symptoms like excessive thirst, changes in hair coat, behavior, increased blood pressure etc. In addition, there are diseases characterized by a lack of these hormones, including hypoadrenocorticism (also called Addison’s Disease). This disease is characterized by severe signs like vomiting, diarrhea, poor appetite, and electrolyte abnormalities.

 

The Purdue Small Animal Internal Medicine service can perform specialized testing for hormones to determine if an excess or lack of hormone is present. In addition, advanced imaging like abdominal ultrasound, CT scan, or MRI are available for imaging of the adrenal glands or brain to determine the underlying cause. Once the cause is identified, medical and/or surgical recommendations can be made as to how best treat these conditions.

 

Thyroid Gland Diseases

The thyroid glands produce thyroid hormone, which is necessary to maintain a normal metabolism and normal function of all cells in the body. The thyroid glands utilize iodine, which is a healthy electrolyte present in all balanced pet foods, to produce this hormone.


The Purdue Small Animal Internal Medicine service specializes in identifying diseases characterized by either lack of production of thyroid hormone (hypothyroidism, more common in dogs) or overproduction of thyroid hormone (hyperthyroidism, more common in cats).

 

Hypothyroidism in dogs can result in sluggishness, weight gain, high cholesterol levels, and a dulling of the hair coat. It is often seen in older dogs, but can be difficult to diagnose as the thyroid gland can be suppressed by the presence of other diseases or certain medications. The Purdue Small Animal Internal Medicine service can utilize more targeted testing to identify and treat this disease.

 

Hyperthyroidism is a common disease in older cats and is most commonly caused by a benign tumor of the thyroid gland (though occasionally these tumors are more aggressive). Overproduction of thyroid hormone in cats can lead to increased thirst, increased appetite, weight loss, and often a behavioral change in that cats will become more active, agitated, vocal, etc. Hyperthyroidism also predisposes cats to the development of heart disease, so regular screening of aging cats for their thyroid status is recommended. The Purdue Small Animal Internal Medicine service helps to diagnose and manage cats with hyperthyroidism. There are dietary, medical, and surgical management opportunities which can be discussed with any newly diagnosed hyperthyroid cat, with the recommendations tailored to the individual case.

 

In addition, the Small Animal Internal Medicine Service coordinates the Radioactive Iodine Program for Hyperthyroid Cats. This is a treatment in which a radioactive isotope is administered to hyperthyroid cats. This isotope contains iodine, which is taken up by the overactive thyroid gland, and the radioactivity destroys the abnormal cells. It is an effective way to treat hyperthyroidism in cats, and in many cases can be curative. If you are interested in learning more about this program, please contact the Purdue Veterinary Teaching Hospital, (765)494-1107.

 

Diabetes Mellitus

Diabetes mellitus is a disease frequently diagnosed in dogs and cats. This disease is characterized by a deficiency in insulin, a hormone secreted by the pancreas to help regulate blood sugar. When insulin is deficient, the body’s blood sugar levels get very high. This can lead to a variety of symptoms including increased thirst, increased frequency of urination, increased appetite, weight loss, etc. If diabetes goes untreated, it can lead to more dangerous symptoms including vomiting, diarrhea, decreased appetite. Untreated diabetes can become a medical emergency.

 

The Purdue Small Animal Internal Medicine Service specializes in diagnosing diabetes mellitus in dogs and cats. In addition, diagnostics are selected in order to assess the severity of the diabetes and whether or not any other diseases are present which could impact the treatment of diabetes. Based on this information, the internal medicine specialist can tailor the best recommendations (often a combination of dietary recommendations and insulin therapy) for your pet.


Management of diabetes in dogs and cats usually involves giving them daily injections of insulin under their skin. The internal medicine specialists at Purdue will help to teach families how to give these injections and teach them all about the other important considerations when managing a diabetic pet. In addition, the Purdue Small Animal Internal Medicine service utilizes special monitoring devices which can track your pet’s blood sugar, non-invasively, over the span of several days.

 

Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine, 625 Harrison Street, West Lafayette, IN 47907, (765) 494-7607

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