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Dr. Deb
Dr. Deb, Dog Veterinarian
Category: Dog
Satisfied Customers: 10158
Experience:  I have owned, bred and shown dogs for over 40 years.
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Our 5 year old male neutered shetland sheepdog has had food

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Our 5 year old male neutered shetland sheepdog has had food allergies, 2 possible cases of gastritis/pancreatitis (last in 2011) seasonal allergies and superficial punctate keratitis.

Our immediate concern now is a high cholesterol test of 323 on 8/1/13 (preop before teeth cleaning) and previously 274 on 12/5/12. He is on Zignature lamb and rice grain free Exclusively plus steamed green beans since CN lamb and rice was recalled. Its Fat content is max 16.60

Also he has had consistently high hemoglobin (almost all over 19 since 2010).

Reportedly, shelties are predisposed to high cholesterol and we are concerned and would like to know as much as we can about this aspect, including what is considered to be normal/ abnormal ranges, what the implications would be of such a condition, whether the fat content in his food should be reduced and if so, to what range as well as anything else that is relevant to hyperlipidemia in dogs etc.

Also, if you can speak to the consistently high Hemoglobin levels and what this also could be indicative of and what further followup should be considered.

Finally, circovirus had been confirmed in our state. What would be important to know and do about this too.

Hi, I'm Dr. Deb. I recently came online and see that your question about RB hasn't been answered. I'm sorry that you've had to wait for a response but if you still need assistance, I'd like to help if I can.

1. Yes, certain lines of shelties are prone to hypercholesterolemia and you're correct to be concerned, especially if he's already had two pancreatitis episodes.
Each lab is different in terms of high normal when it comes to values but a cholesterol of 323 isn't terribly high. For example, high normal for the lab I use is 328 with low normal 112.
A non-fasted sample can also cause this value to be elevated as can the diet that is fed.
Risk factors associated with "true" elevated cholesterol levels can include the following:
a) Pancreatitis
b) Changes of the eye such as lipid keratopathy, stromal dystrophy, lipid in the aqueous humor, uveitis, blindness, and lipemia retinalis.
c) Changes in the skin (although these are less commonly seen) such as itching and hair loss.

2. Low fat diets with a fat content of between 12-15% are usually suggested for those dogs at risk for developing recurring episodes of pancreatitis. I usually recommend prescription food Royal Canin Low Fat or Hill's I/D which is also a good choice.

3. Human/table food can definitely increase the lipids in the blood and thus shoud be avoided for those dogs at risk.

4. Omega 3 fatty acids dosed at 10-30 mg/kg a day may be helpful. Welactin or 3V capsules are good choices since quality control issues exist with supplements.

As to the Hemoglobin levels, the range is 12-18 g/dL for the lab I use.
To be honest, I don't worry about mild elevations in this number in a clinically normal patient, since it's usually secondary to a difficult blood draw or hemolysis during handling/storage of the blood.

As to the Circovirus that's been receiving attention in certain states, there isn't enough information known about it to make definitive statements.

To quote the Ohio Department of Agriculture: Dog CV is newly isolated and there is very little information available about the virus, where it came from and how it spreads. The limited research available shows that canine circovirus can cause vasculitis and hemorrhaging in infected dogs.

I researched a veterinary database about it and the information that I found pretty much confirms the above statement: we just don't know enough about it yet.

Again, I'm sorry that you've had to wait for an answer to your questions, but I hope this helps. Deb

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Rb gets no other food... Zero human or other dog treats. Only kibble and green beans. His cholesterol check was a fasting one since he was getting his teeth cleaned and could not have anything after mid night of the night before. Does this additional info change anything? Lamb is high in cholesterol, so is this contraindicated for him? Unfortunately, a blood test that was done a couple of years ago due to several bouts of diarrhea suggested that as he was allergic to chicken, eggs, beets, salmon, lamb dog food was his least reactive protein and thus his sole dog food source. Should we get another cholesterol test done? What blood test or other event confirms a dx of hyperlipidemia in dogs (pet MD notes that a strict fast of 12 hours and a blood test result of 300 confirms hi c in dogs thus fueling our confusion and concern)? If this was your beloved dog, what action would you pursue under these circumstances especially since our dietary options are extremely limited. As to the hgb values, what might higher than normal be suggestive of? Could they be a sign of gastritis? Thank you for responding initially and hopefully subsequently.

You're welcome:)

Thanks for the additional information but the fact that no human food is given and that the cholesterol was a fasting number doesn't really change the fact that 323 is not higher than normal, for my lab anyway. You might ask your vet what the range would be for the lab they use. I hate to disagree with other professionals but I don't consider cholesterol slightly higher than 300 to be of a huge concern in an asymptomatic dog, especially if the triglycerides are also normal ( see below).

I don't doubt that he may be allergic to certain kinds of foods, but blood testing is notoriously unreliable in confirming this fact. Food trials are really the best way to determine if a dog is allergic to one particular food or not.
But for the sake of argument, let's assume that he is allergic to the foods you indicate, then you're going to be somewhat limited in the options as to what you can feed him if you're trying to reduce his fat. At a little over 16% fat, your current food isn't bad but you'd have to research others to try to get that number between 12-15%. An alternative would be to feed a home cooked diet formulated by a veterinary nutritionist to ensure that it's balanced and healthy. This service is actually available on the internet but it can be expensive.
There's no question that this can be a balancing act for some dogs when multiple problems exist or are suspected.

Since Hyperlipidemia can be secondary to other underlying diseases, I'd also want to rule them out. I'm assuming his glucose was normal so Diabetes isn't on the list and that his kidney/protein values were normal so protein losing nephropathy is also eliminated but other possible causes include Cushing's disease, and hypothyroidism Hyperlipidemia secondary to an underlying disease will typically resolve or improve with correction of the metabolic disturbance.

I would also run a triglycerides test if not already done. Most labs don't include this value in routine screening and it needs to be requested.

If this were my case or my dog:
1. I'd repeat the cholesterol with at least a 12 hour fasted sample and also run a triglycerides test.
2. I'd rule out an underlying endocrine disease as I mentioned above.
3. I'd want to make sure that drugs such as steroids (even topical products or licking off drugs from owners) weren't falsely increasing the results.
4. If an underlying cause is not found and hyperlipidemia is diagnosed, then familial hyperlipidemia may be present. Additional testing such as lipoprotein electrophoresis and/or ultracentrifugation can be done to determine the nature of the defect and determine the abundance of the different lipoprotein fractions and their content.
I've never run these tests because my treatment suggestions wouldn't change based on the information gained.

Higher than normal hemoglobin values are also usually seen with a higher than normal hematocrit. If that's the case, then dehydration, liver disease, polycythemia are possible explanations. Some dogs such as sight hounds also run higher as a breed.
However, if only the hemoglobin is elevated, then sample handling is usually the reason.
It wouldn't be related to gastritis other than possible dehydration associated with the condition.


Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Your replies have been most helpful, thorough, and very educational for which we are most grateful.


In searching prior vet visits, when the most comprehensive blood work panel was done back in 12/12, it revealed a cholesterol of 274,Triglycerides of 75, Glucose 107, T4 1.8, with the HGB still running high 19, and HCT 54. All of his other prior HGB and HCT tests have also run consistently around 19 and 55. Albumin also tends to run in 4.2 Range. Additionally, back in 2011 a vet did an ACTH test which we were told was negative.


With regard to your specific comments about if this was your dog/ patient, and that steroids can elevate cholesterol, LO AND BEHOLD, RB did get a 2mg injection of VETALOG for his allergies about 3 days or so before this reading!


So, any chance you have an office in either Michigan or FloridaWink? Compounding our situation medically, is that we divide our time between these two states and thus have two vets providing treatment and thus we lack uninterrupted continuity of care, and at times receive differing perspectives.


So, unless we hear back from you with what appear to be other great insights, we will repeat his cholesterol and triglyceride blood work and ensure that he has had nothing for a full 12 hours before. We will also work on reducing the fat content of his grain free lamb kibble, perhaps by going back to a mix of the grain free (16 fat) and lamb and rice (11 fat) to bring the final total down within the recommended range 0f 12-15. We were doing this before the Cal Natural recall with no apparent adverse consequences.


Thank you again for being so responsive and providing such a comprehensive reply!




I'm glad that I've been able to help.

Unfortunately, I live in New England so it doesn't look like I'll be seeing you as a client anytime soon:)
I do understand how difficult it can be if there's not continuity of care and I also know that vets have differing opinions about many things. Veterinary medicine, similar to human medicine, is sometimes as much of an art as it is a science, unfortunately.

That's interesting that RB received a vetalog injection prior to the blood tests; since it's a long acting steroid, it may certainly have falsely elevated the cholesterol level.
It will be most interesting to see what the values are when repeated and this drug is no longer in his system.


Most of the chemistry panel results that you provided are within a normal range, especially the triglycerides which aren't even close to being high. The albumin is the only one that's slightly elevated (high normal is 4.0 for my lab).

As to his consistently mildly high Hematocrit of 54% with HGB also correspondingly high, this may be normal for him, especially if he is asymptomatic. Not all dogs fit within the reference ranges of a particular lab. I try not to overinterpret the lab values if they're outside the normal range and I have a healthy patient. Sometimes I think we have a tendency to forget to look at the dog and not the numbers, if that makes sense.


But if he's not a big water drinker, mild dehydration could cause an elevated hemotacrit as well as mildly elevated albumin.


I also think that being proactive with respect to the fat content of his food is prudent.

I'll be interested in knowing what the repeat testing shows if you have a chance to send me an update at that time.

Even after you've rated (if you do, of course), we can still continue to communicate at no additional charge to you. I can also send you a follow up email in a few weeks to which you can respond when you have the time to do so.


Best regards, Deb

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