What Is High Cholesterol in Dogs?
Cholesterol is a fat-like substance found in all cells in the body.
While it has a bad reputation, cholesterol itself is not bad. Some cholesterol is necessary to make certain hormones, utilize certain vitamins, and build new cells. It’s only when a dog has too much cholesterol that it can become a problem.
High cholesterol is often referred to as hyperlipidemia, or too many fats in the bloodstream. This is measured by levels of both triglyceride and cholesterol, different types of fats that circulate in the blood.
A dog’s cholesterol level is considered high when it’s measured outside the normal blood range (120-270 mg/dL).
High cholesterol is common in dogs and not always indicative of a problem. Often, cholesterol and triglyceride levels are just temporarily high after they’ve had a high-fat meal.
Other times, cholesterol may be high because of underlying disease or genetic predisposition.
High cholesterol in dogs is not considered a medical emergency by itself.
However, many conditions that can cause high cholesterol should be addressed by your vet.
Symptoms of High Cholesterol in Dogs
Most cases of high cholesterol in dogs show no symptoms and are often found during routine blood tests. However, if symptoms do show, they may include:
Causes of High Cholesterol in Dogs
High cholesterol in dogs can be caused either through an underlying condition or a specific event. This includes:
Eating a high-fat meal—Most often, high cholesterol in dogs is temporary due to a dog eating a fatty meal prior to a blood draw.
If your dog’s cholesterol level is high due to a recent fatty meal, your veterinarian may want to repeat blood work after your dog has fasted for 12 hours.
Protein-losing nephropathy (PLN)
Some breeds are genetically predisposed to having high cholesterol. These breeds include:
How Veterinarians Diagnose High Cholesterol in Dogs
High cholesterol in dogs is diagnosed with a physical exam, blood work, and a urinalysis.
If you are specifically testing your dog’s cholesterol levels, it’s important to avoid feeding them a fatty meal right before their appointment. Ideally, try to withhold food for at least 12 hours before your visit.
Your veterinarian may recommend additional lab work when searching for an underlying cause of high cholesterol.
Treatment of High Cholesterol in Dogs
High cholesterol in dogs can’t be cured but it can be managed.
The treatment of high cholesterol in dogs focuses on minimizing fats in your pup’s diet. A low-fat diet that is high in fiber can be helpful to reduce the amount of circulating fats in the bloodstream.
A low-fat diet will probably be recommended for life, as management of high cholesterol is a lifelong commitment. Similarly, limiting high-fat treats, feeding your dog the right amount, and good exercise habits are helpful for your dog to maintain a healthy weight.
If an underlying disease is present, then treatment is primarily geared toward management of the underlying health condition.
Recovery and Management of High Cholesterol in Dogs
High cholesterol is usually a managed condition in dogs, with a combination of a fat-restricted diet and healthy habits.
Restricting fat in the diet is often accomplished with prescription diets that are considerably lower in fat content. Hill’s® i/d Low Fat, Hill’s® w/d, Royal Canin® Gastrointestinal Low Fat, and Purina® EN Gastroenteric Low Fat are all good examples.
Always encourage regular exercise with your dog. Daily long walks are great for fat burning and building muscle tone.
If any medications are prescribed by your veterinarian for other underlying medical conditions, follow the instructions. Don’t skip follow-up appointments, as they are helpful in adjusting the medication and finding the best routine for your dog to stay healthy.
Some dogs who have high cholesterol may benefit from a fish oil supplement such as Nordic Naturals® Omega-3 Pet™ Soft Gels. While fish oil is a type of fat, it is primarily composed of omega-3 fatty acids, which are an example of “good” cholesterol. They may help lower the “bad” cholesterol and overall fat levels in the bloodstream.
Always talk to your veterinarian before giving your dog any supplements.
Prevention of High Cholesterol in Dogs
While genetics play a large part in cholesterol levels in dogs, you can help your dog by helping them to maintain a healthy weight by:
Feeding your pup the recommended amount of food based on their size and age.
Avoiding too many treats or overfeeding during mealtimes.
Not leaving food out all day; many pets will snack because they’re bored.
Not feeding your dog table scraps or other high-fat treats that can alter their cholesterol levels.
High Cholesterol in Dogs FAQs
What can dogs eat to lower cholesterol?
Dogs should eat a fat restricted diet to minimize their cholesterol.
Are eggs bad for dogs cholesterol?
While eggs are OK for most healthy dogs’ cholesterol levels, this may not be the case for dogs who have high cholesterol, or hyperlipidemia.
Egg yolks are a source of triglycerides and cholesterol, and are not ideal for dogs with elevated lipids (fats) in their bloodstream.
Featured Image: BjelicaS/iStock / Getty Images Plus via Getty Images
Albuquerque P. et al. Supplementation of omega-3 and dietary factors can influence the cholesterolemia and triglyceridemia in hyperlipidemic Schnauzer dogs: A preliminary report. PloS One. October 2021;16(10).
Ford R. Hyperlipidemic states in the dog and cat (Proceedings). DVM360. 2010.
Latimer K., ed. Duncan & Prasse’s Veterinary Laboratory Medicine: Clinical Pathology, 2003. pp. 176–78.
Lundgren B. VIN. Hyperlipidemia in Dogs and Cats. Veterinary Information Network. 2016.
Help us make PetMD better
Was this article helpful?