New AAHA guidelines offer clarity on endocrine disease in dogs and cats
“Endocrine diseases can be complex and confusing,” said Renee Rucinsky, DVM, DABVP (Feline), co-chair of the 2023 AAHA Selected Endocrinopathies of Dogs and Cats Guidelines task force. The clinical signs [of these diseases] are typically nonspecific as well as highly variable—and when it comes to early-stage disease, the symptoms are often so mild that they’re unobservable, adding to the challenge.
At the same time, these are some of the most common chronic diseases seen in clinical practice, which is why the endocrinopathies guidelines include helpful resources to better understand and educate team members as well as clients in what to look for.
“The guidelines can help reduce some of the stress of managing complicated cases and help standardize the approach to taking care of patients with endocrine disease,” Rucinsky said. “My hope is that veterinarians are able to use this concise resource to remain comfortable with current diagnostic and treatment recommendations for their patients.”
Andrew Bugbee, DVM, DACVIM, and co-chair of the guidelines task force agrees. “Endocrinology is an ever-evolving field,” he said, “so the guidelines serve as a one-stop quick reference for information spanning a variety of endocrine conditions encountered clinically.”
Endocrine diseases: Simplified steps and accessible insights
Specifically, the guidelines offer step-by-step plans for the diagnosis, treatment, and maintenance of hypothyroidism, hypercortisolism (Cushing’s syndrome), and hypoadrenocorticism (Addison’s disease) in dogs.
In cats, they provide guidance on hyperthyroidism (one of the most common feline endocrine diseases), along with hyperaldosteronism, hypothyroidism, and hypercortisolism.
Of course, certain diseases—and certain pets—add to the level of difficulty when it comes to diagnosing and treating endocrinopathies.
“Nonclassic hyperthyroid cats are becoming more common and can be confusing to treat,” said Rucinsky. “The guidelines offer straightforward guidance on effectively identifying and treating this population.”
The guidelines also offer direction on other specific populations, like certain dog breeds and active working dogs who may have low thyroid hormone concentrations without having thyroid disease.
Whole team approach to treating endocrine diseases
Bugbee said he hopes these guidelines support clinicians in feeling confident that they’re providing the most up-to-date care possible, “and that some take away new concepts or tips that help update their understanding, management, or team involvement in handling these conditions.”
In fact, that whole-team approach to personalized care is part of what AAHA Chief Medical Officer Jessica Vogelsang, DVM, finds most exciting about these new guidelines.
“Learning that a beloved pet has a chronic disease isn’t easy,” she said. “The guidelines offer client communication and team utilization guidance to navigate these often emotional situations.”
After all, when it comes to managing a chronic condition, it’s not only the communication during the initial diagnosis that’s important to the client (and, ultimately, to the patient)—it’s the support provided to the patient and family as they manage the disease going forward. In order to provide that support, all members of the veterinary team need to be informed, involved, and able to communicate with confidence about a pet’s care plan.
“For clients, having the support of the veterinary team—from client service representatives helping schedule their follow-ups at the right intervals, to having credentialed technicians available to answer medication questions via phone or video chat—may be the difference that’s needed to keep the pet in their home with the family who loves them,” Vogelsang said. “When the skills and abilities of every veterinary team member are optimized, this means better support and more options for our patients and clients.”
From dogs and cats presenting with the subtlest signs of endocrine disease to established patients already undergoing treatment, these guidelines provide a straightforward approach to the diagnosis, treatment, and management of endocrinopathies. They have the power to make a real difference in these pets’ quality of life while also simplifying the process for veterinary teams providing their care.
View the full guidelines at aaha.org/endocrine-disease.
The 2023 AAHA Selected Endocrinopathies of Dogs and Cats Guidelines are generously supported by Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health, IDEXX, Merck, Zoetis, and Zomedica.
Photo credit: © Nils Jacobi E+ via Getty Images Plus
Disclaimer: The views expressed, and topics discussed, in any NEWStat column or article are intended to inform, educate, or entertain, and do not represent an official position by the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) or its Board of Directors.