Canines can suffer from hormone imbalances of the thyroid gland and with insulin insufficiency associated with diabetes. But the most common hormone problem in both dogs and humans is sex hormone deficiency.
Unless you are a breeder, your dog is most likely spayed or neutered. In females, spaying removes the uterus and ovaries (estrogen/progesterone source), while neutering males removes the testicles (testosterone source). As for us humans, simply surviving into our 40s and beyond takes us through the portals of decreasing gonad function and diminishing sex hormone reserve and quantity. Yes, folks, we also ultimately “get fixed”!
We’re more alike than you think
The need for dog population control is real and compelling. Unfortunately, we have been slow to realize the adverse consequences of sex hormone disruption on a dog’s lifespan, functionality, and activity. We share 82% to 84% of the same DNA with our dogs. This means dogs have the same “operating platform” as we do and suffer from the same metabolic disruptions. Hormone abnormalities may manifest in various ways depending on the species but we share the same metabolic pathways. The bottom line is that we are genetically more alike than different.
Symptoms of hormone loss
Here’s what sex hormone loss (deficiency) does to us and our dogs.
Metabolic – Decreases metabolic rate, increases appetite, food consumption and weight gain (sound familiar?).
Bone/joint – Decreases bone mineral content and strength. Increases joint inflammation (degenerative arthritis). Increases abnormal bone matrix deposits contributing to cervical and spinal stenosis. Decreases ligament/tendon strength (a leading cause of joint instability). Hormone deficiency is the largest contributor to joint inflammation and degeneration and premature aging.
Teeth – Decreases bone mineral content and strength of alveolar and jaw bones, leading to weaker tooth anchorage and increased periodontal disease with tooth loss.
Muscles – Lean body mass is adversely affected by hormone loss in humans and dogs. It’s usually more apparent in humans. Activity can largely offset this in both dogs and humans.
Brain/cognitive – Much higher incidence of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s in humans. Cognitive/coping mechanisms decrease in spayed/neutered dogs.
Bladder control – Spayed dogs have a higher incidence of bladder leakage just as post-menopausal women frequently have stress incontinence.
So we have a bit of a dilemma. We want humane treatment of animals. We believe that animal population control is essential. So do I. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could achieve the same contraception that spay/neutering provides, but somehow spare our dogs the premature aging and mortality caused by hormone disruption? I would love to have an extra two years of full, interactive life with my spayed dogs!
Enter soy isoflavones
One option is to leave the ovaries intact when spaying a female, or to perform a vasectomy on male dogs. But for dogs already spayed or neutered, there is only one practical, safe and effective hormone substitute. Soy extracted isoflavones have been proven to almost completely offset the life-shortening impacts of sex hormone loss caused by spaying and neutering.
Isoflavones from soy have been tested since the 1970s, and there are now over 11,000 scientific papers about them. Isoflavones are to soy what ascorbic acid is to oranges. The three principle soy isoflavones are the well studied genistein, daidzein and glycetin. Isoflavones don’t have the allergenic potential that soy proteins and flours do.
Soy isoflavones got noticed thanks to the estrogenic effect that large amounts of soy meal mixed with meat had on cheetahs in the Philadelphia Zoo during the early 1970s. There was a rush of interest in the medical community to use “phytoestrogens” in place of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) because they were associated with a much lower cancer risk. We physicians cooled off on using them because they seemed to offer little help for the hot flashes, anxiety, insomnia and agitation caused by peri-menopausal changes in women. We concluded that they “didn’t work”. Meanwhile, veterinarians thought spaying and neutering had little impact on a dog’s health since good vet care was improving life spans. Plus there remained the very real need to control animal populations. From their perspective, the system wasn’t broken and didn’t need fixing.
What they can do
But keeping all hormones at functionally normal levels benefits both dogs and humans. In cases of sex hormone deficiency, soy isoflavones can:
• Restore bone mineral content and strength
• Prevent joint inflammation and degenerative arthritis
• Maintain cognitive and neuron growth
• Restore and maintain bladder control
• Maintain lens and retina functions in the eye
• Maintain appetite feedback and weight control
• Improve lipid levels
• Improve lean body mass to total body weight ratios
• Enhance bone density in mandible and alveolar bone, leading to less periodontal disease and tooth loss
• Maintain ligament and tendon strength
• Maintain normal blood pressure
• Promote micro circulation to limit cardiovascular disease and liver and kidney problems.
Soy isoflavones don’t help with hot flashes, insomnia or agitation in peri-menopausal women. They don’t stimulate breast proliferation (make them larger or produce milk) or stimulate prostate growth or proliferation. (This is thought to be the reason some studies have shown an anti-cancer effect regarding breast and prostate cancer.) Isovflavones don’t stimulate growth of the ovaries or uterus at replacement doses. They also don’t influence hair growth at the doses tested, or enlarge the prostate or penis.
Supplementing your dog
Soy has been in cultivation for over 3,000 years. The FDA has ruled that soy products are GRAS (Generally Regarded As Safe). This means no prescription is needed. Soy isoflavones are sold over the counter in most drug stores in the form of 60 mg to 100 mg supplements for human consumption. You can give one of these to your dog every day for each 20 pounds of weight. Isoflavones taste awful so be sure to mask the flavor.
There is only one dedicated spay/neuter supplement currently on the market. EstraPet isoflavone supplement biscuit treats (www.estrapet.com) are made with 60 mg of isoflavones and are baked using chicken, hypoallergenic barley, malt, rice and oat grains. They contain bone meal and vitamins to promote the maximum benefit and are very palatable to dogs.
Supplemented spayed/neutered dogs maintain greater activity and have less degenerative disease than unsupplemented dogs. Hormone supplementation reduces “aging” in animals just as it does in people. I am now giving my own dogs the EstraPet treats and the older one has relearned the joys of jogging with me. Life is best when hormones remain at factory specs!