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Hypothyroidism in Dogs

Our vets at Westmoreland & Slappey Animal Hospital in Perry commonly see hypothyroidism in dogs ages 4-10. In this article, we'll discuss signs, symptoms, and treatment options for this condition. 

Hypothyroidism in Dogs

The thyroid gland is located near the top of your dog's neck and produces the hormone thyroxine, which controls metabolism (the process of converting food into fuel). Problems happen when the thyroid becomes either overactive (hyperthyroidism) or under-active (hypothyroidism). If your dog is suffering from hypothyroidism, this means that there's not enough thyroxine being produced by the thyroid to support a healthy, normal metabolism. 

Canine hypothyroidism is an internal health condition most often caused by one of two diseases:

  • Idiopathic thyroid gland atrophy, which occurs when normal thyroid tissue is replaced by fat tissue.
  • Lymphocytic thyroiditis is the most common cause of hypothyroidism in dogs. It's believed to be an immune-mediated disease, which means that your dog's immune system sees the thyroid as foreign or abnormal and attacks it. While this condition is not well understood, genetics are thought to play a role. 

While hypothyroidism can impact any breed of dog, it's most often found in medium to large breeds such as boxers, cocker spaniels, dachshunds, golden retrievers, Irish setters, and doberman pinschers between 4 and 10 years of age. Neutered males and spayed females are also at higher risk of developing hypothyroidism, though it is unclear why this is the case. 

What are the most common signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism in dogs?

Low levels of the thyroid hormone in the bloodstream causes many changes in a dog's body, since thyroid hormones are responsible for helping your pooch maintain a normal metabolism, normal levels of tissue repair, and a healthy immune system. Hypothyroidism in dogs can trigger symptoms such as:

  • Drooping facial muscles
  • Infertility in male dogs 
  • Weight gain without increased appetite 
  • Muscle loss 
  • Slow heart rate
  • Ear infections
  • Repeated superficial skin infections 
  • Scabs and sores on skin 
  • Black patches on skin 
  • Lack of heat periods or miscarriage in females
  • Inability to tolerate cold temperatures 
  • Excess shedding or scaling 
  • Excessive dandruff 
  • Lack of coordination
  • Reduced physical activity 
  • Darkening of skin
  • Skin infections that do not clear up
  • Rough, dull coat
  • Thinning of fur
  • Flaky, itchy skin
  • Toenail infections
  • Head tilt
  • Fatty deposits in eyes

How is hypothyroidism diagnosed in dogs?

If your vet believes that your dog's symptoms are being caused by hypothyroidism a series of blood tests can be done to diagnose this condition, so that treatment can begin.

What is the treatment for hypothyroidism in dogs?

Your pooch will need treatment for the rest of their life with synthetic hormones like levothyroxine (L-thyroxine), which will need to be taken orally daily for the rest of your dog’s life. Other therapies recommended for treating hypothyroidism in dogs include low-dose natural hormone replacement, homeopathy and glandulars that may help healing, fermented foods, high-quality, gluten-free natural foods, as well as increased exercise in nature and fluoride-free filtered water.

While hypothyroidism is not life-threatening if properly treated, left untreated this disease can make your dog very uncomfortable and unhappy, and shorten their lifespan. This is because almost every organ in the body is impacted by the thyroid hormone and by your pup's metabolism. 

Dogs with untreated hypothyroidism often develop neuromuscular symptoms such as seizures, head tilt, and unsteadiness. Their heart rate slows, immune function decreases, and cholesterol increases. 

Along with prescribing medications to be administered daily,  your vet may also recommend changes to your dog's diet and you may want to consider natural remedies.

If your dog shows signs of having sensitivities to certain foods or substances, your vet will need to identify the problematic substances so that you can avoid them, or your vet may recommend integrating a few natural fibrous nutrients such as green beans, carrot, cucumber, cooked broccoli, and mushrooms into your dog's diet.

In some circumstances, homemade food may be recommended. If this is true for you and your dog, your vet can provide recipes to ensure your four-legged friend receives all the balanced nutrition they require. 

Your vet can provide you with instructions for the best food to feed your dog with hypothyroidism and make recommendations based on their specific needs. 

Natural Remedies

Your veterinarian may prescribe nutraceuticals or glandular supplements such as iodine, selenium or zinc, which all support thyroid health. Zinc and selenium help convert T4 to T3, while iodine is important to a properly functioning thyroid. Low-dose natural hormone replacement, homeopathy, fluoride-free filtered water and increased exercise in nature may also be recommended. 

Regular blood tests may be needed to monitor your dog's treatment progress. Once hormone levels have stabilized (which can take some time), your dog will remain on this prescription for life. 

Can canine hypothyroidism be prevented?

Though there is no way to prevent hypothyroidism, regular veterinary checkups can help your dog's veterinarian identify, diagnose, and treat conditions like this earlier. 

Doing everything you can to support your dog's health will help, including brushing their teeth regularly, ensuring they get their daily exercise in, and feeding them a highly nutritious diet. 

Check with your vet to find out if you can supplement your dog's diet with safe people foods, such as bits of boiled sweet potato, cooked sinless chicken, and apple slices. 

Of course, we always recommend giving your dog all the love and attention you can, too. 

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Are you seeing symptoms of hypothyroidism or another health condition in your dog? Contact our Perry vets today to book an exam for your canine friend if they are displaying signs of this condition.

New Patients Welcome

Looking for quality veterinary care in a warm and friendly atmosphere? Westmoreland & Slappey Animal Hospital in Perry, GA is accepting new patients! Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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