AAHA publishes endocrinology diagnosis, treatment guidelines for dogs, cats

Endocrinology is an ever-evolving field, and the diagnosis and treatment of endocrine diseases can present unique challenges for veterinary professionals who are also responsible for communicating with clients about these illnesses that may require lifelong management.

Official mascot of the 2023 AAHA Selected Endocrinopathies of Dogs and Cats Guidelines - Minnie
(Image designed by Lili Chin and used with permission from the 2023 AAHA Selected Endocrinopathies Guidelines)

The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) announced the publication of the 2023 AAHA Selected Endocrinopathies of Dogs and Cats Guidelines to provide quick reference tools for a step-by-step process to diagnose and treat common endocrine diseases. The guidelines are available to download on the AAHA website (PDF).

“I hope the guidelines support clinicians in feeling confident they are providing the most up-to-date care to their patients,” said Dr. Andrew Bugbee, associate clinical professor of internal medicine in the Department of Small Animal Medicine and Surgery at the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine.

Dr. Bugbee is co-chair of the AAHA Selected Endocrinopathies of Dogs and Cats Guidelines Task Force along with Dr. Renee Rucinsky, owner of Mid Atlantic Cat Hospital and Mid Atlantic Feline Thyroid Center in Queenstown, Maryland.

A one-page Guidelines at a Glance document (PDF) is also available for download, and is organized with a “3/2/1” approach: Three main takeaways, two specific actions, and one important reminder for veterinary practitioners.

By taking a team-based approach, veterinarians can advocate better for their endocrine patients. The guidelines include instructions on low-stress handling strategies, questionnaires, telephone triage skills, and more, to support clients and their pets.

“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,” Dr. Rucinsky said.

For cats, hyperthyroidism is one of the most common endocrine diseases, and the guidelines cover some less common illnesses such as hyperaldosteronism, hypothyroidism, and hypercortisolism.

“My hope is that veterinarians are able to use this concise resource to remain comfortable with current diagnostic and treatment recommendations for their patients,” Dr. Rucinsky said. “I especially hope it helps with the non-classic hyperthyroid cats that are becoming more common and can be confusing to treat.”

Endocrine disorders represent a significant portion of conditions encountered in clinical practice. Some, such as hypo- and hyperthyroidism, are more common, with hypothyroidism being one of the most commonly diagnosed endocrine disorder in dogs.

AAHA endo guidelines
An Alaskan Klee Kai dog with hypercortisolism, or Cushing’s syndrome, pants by his outdoor water dish. One of the side effects of the disease is extreme thirst and panting. The red on his coat is from excess hormone secretions that are also caused by the disease. The 2023 AAHA Selected Endocrinopathies of Dogs and Cats Guidelines cover Cushing’s syndrome, and hypoadrenocorticism, also known as Addison’s disease.

Pertaining to dogs, the guidelines also cover hypercortisolism, or Cushing’s syndrome, and hypoadrenocorticism, also known as Addison’s disease.

Dr. Bugbee explained that even the less common diseases occur frequently enough that veterinarians are likely to encounter them in practice and will likely see some endocrine patients every week for either diagnostic workups or treatment monitoring.

“Having these conditions on your radar ensures differential lists and diagnostic plans are as comprehensive as possible to benefit the patient,” Dr. Bugbee said. “While aspects of these conditions can be complex, the guidelines help to demystify some of the nuances to ensure we continue maximizing the health of our patients and happiness of our clients.”

A version of this story appears in the August 2023 print issue of JAVMA.