Hyperlipidemia in dogs: causes, symptoms, risks and treatment

Can your dog have triglycerides or cholesterol? Yes, it can happen and is called hyperlipidemia

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What is hyperlipidemia?

Hyperlipidemia refers to high levels of lipids (fats) in the blood. This term is generally used to refer to high levels of triglycerides or cholesterol in the blood plasma.

The consequences of hyperlipidemia in dogs can be serious and life-threatening for the animal.

What causes hyperlipidemia in dogs?

A recent meal

Hyperlipidemia can simply be explained by a meal high in fat taken recently. This is called postprandial hyperlipidemia.Serum triglyceride levels are often elevated within 6 to 12 hours after a meal. However, these levels should return to normal after fasting for 12 to 18 hours.


High blood triglycerides or cholesterol levels can also have genetic causes. Primary hyperlipidemia thus affects the Miniature Schnauzer more frequently, although other breeds may be affected as well.

Another disease

Most often in dogs, high lipid levels are secondary to another disease process in the body. Thus, diseases such as diabetes mellitus, hypothyroidism, Cushing's disease or certain kidney diseases can contribute to the development of hyperlipidemia in dogs.

What are the signs of hyperlipidemia in dogs?

Often, hyperlipidemia in dogs remains asymptomatic. Understand that it does not cause any symptoms. It is then detected when the veterinarian performs routine blood tests.

If clinical signs appear, then it may be:

  • gastrointestinal signs such as anorexia and vomiting,
  • lipid deposits on the cornea or retinal vessels that can lead to the appearance of white spots on the surface of the eye or visual disturbances,
  • peripheral neuropathies such as facial nerve palsy, Claude Bernard Horner syndrome or radial or tibial nerve palsy due to the presence of fatty deposits along the nerve paths,
  • seizures,
  • etc.

The major risk is that excess blood lipids are deposited inside the animal's blood vessels creating atherosclerosis and thrombosis, that is to say the formation of a clot at the within a vessel that would interrupt blood circulation. Hyperlipidemia can also be complicated by pancreatitis.

How is the diagnosis made?

The diagnosis of hyperlipidemia is made using blood tests. In case of hyperlipidemia, your veterinarian may notice an increase in cholesterol and/or triglyceride levels in an animal that has been fasting for at least 12 hours.

How is hyperlipidemia in dogs treated?

In case of hyperlipidemia, your veterinarian will work to identify its possible underlying cause to treat it. Thus, if the hyperlipidemia is secondary to an endocrine disease, treatment of this disease will generally allow blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels to return to normal.

If no underlying cause is identified or hyperlipidemia does not resolve on its own after treatment of the causative condition, your veterinarian may recommend a low fat diet, but containing long chain omega-3 fatty acids.This change in diet results in a reduction of hyperlipidemia in most cases.

If changing the diet is not enough, your veterinarian may prescribe medications that will help support the effects of the dietary measures.

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