Hypothyroidism – How Can You Tell?

A surprising number of dogs are victims of hypothyroidism.  In many it goes undetected where pet owners aren’t sure what symptoms to look for.  Sometimes its overlooked when dogs only show one or two symptoms rather than the whole range of them.  Whatever the reason, its a problem that is easily handled and treated and one that the treatment

While certain breeds can be more susceptible to the disease, mixed breeds, like this doberman mix, are just as likely to become victims of hypothyroidism

of which can solve a myriad of problems.

Hypothyroidism results from the impaired production of thyroid hormones in the dog.    Essentially the thyroid gland isn’t working up to par causing a chain reaction throughout the body when there just aren’t enough hormones to go around.  Dogs generally contract the disease between 4-10 years of age but this is not an absolute.  As a dog ages they can experience decreased thyroid function due to age and can also benefit from a thyroid supplement.

Symptoms of hypothyroidism can include one or more of the following:

  • Weight gain
  • lethargy
  • hair loss
  • dry skin/hair
  • excessive shedding
  • cold/heat intolerance
  • discoloration of the skin
  • bacterial skin infections
  • thickening of the ear leather
  • slower heart rate
  • chronic ear infections
  • severe behavioral changes such as sudden rage or anxiety
  • slow heart rate

Remember that it is not necessary for ALL of these symptoms to appear in order for your dog to be hypothyroid.  You may see one, two, five or NONE.  If your dog is gaining weight without any discernible increase in appetite, he may be hypothyroid even if his coat is full and plush.  Certain breeds are more susceptible – Doberman Pinschers, Golden Retrievers, Cocker Spaniels to name a few, but it is a possibility in all breeds and mixes.

Generally speaking, hypothyroidism is controlled by the daily intake of a thyroid supplement such as Soloxine.  It is relatively cheap and tends to give a dramatic result over the course of a few weeks.  Usually all symptoms disappear by the end of the first month of treatment – often more quickly.

Diet can have an impact on hypothyroidism though is not going to be a cure – you will still need to give your dog synthetic thyroid supplments in addition BUT it is possible that less can be used if your dog is on a good natural diet

Adding small amounts of kelp to your dog’s diet can help thyroid function and in conjunction with a natural raw diet can reduce the amount of synthetic supplement that your dog needs

that is richer in whole vitamins, minerals and amino acids.  Adding a small amount of kelp to your dog’s diet can help the thyroid to function, but again, it is not a cure.  Selenium deficiency can be another cause of hypothyroidism so “it may be worthwhile to try supplementing with small amounts (no more than about 75 mcg per day for a large dog, proportionately less for smaller dogs).” (www.dogaware.com).

If you see any of the above symptoms, its worth a shot to have a thyroid panel run and generally is not very expensive.  It can be an easy answer and fix to many problems that your dog may be having.  Keep in mind that all dogs are individuals.  A dog who is in a low to mid normal range for thyroid function MAY still show symptoms simply because he is a dog who needs to be a high normal to NOT show symptoms.  Work closely with your vet and be an advocate for your dog remembering that every dog’s normal may not be the same.