Hypothyroidism in Dogs: What You Should Know

Is your dog gaining weight, shedding excessively, or his coat turning dull? These may be indications of his failing thyroid gland. Hypothyroidism in dogs can develop an array of physical and psychological problems in your dog unless identified and treated at the early stage.

The Underactive Thyroid Gland

Hypothyroidism in dogs occurs when the thyroid gland becomes underactive or lose its functional ability.  A dog’s thyroid gland plays a major role in building his body and supplying it with nutrients. The gland produces two types of thyroid hormone – triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4). Both hormones play a major role in regulating the heartbeat, the respiratory ability, the metabolism process, and even the body temperature.

When a dog’s serum concentration of T3 and T4 stays below the normal level, he suffers from hypothyroidism. There are different reasons contributing to the underactive thyroid glands.

  • Genetics
  • Inactivity
  • Obesity
  • Cancer
  • Thyroid gland tumor/ inflammation
  • Steroid intake
  • Iodine deficiency
  • Autoimmune diseases

The disease is not life-threatening in the early stage but it starts to affect the quality of your dog’s life. The risks of complications also increase when it is left untreated for years.

Hypothyroidism in dogs is of two types. The destruction of the pituitary gland is known as primary hypothyroidism. The secondary hypothyroidism is caused by tumor growths within the thyroid gland.

The Risk of Hypothyroidism in Dogs

Hypothyroidism is common in dogs aged between 4 and 10 years. According to a study, spayed female dogs and neutered male ones are more susceptible to hypothyroidism.

The list of dog breeds that are at most prone to the disease include:

  • Labrador Retrievers
  • Golden Retrievers
  • Dachshunds
  • Bulldogs
  • Great Danes
  • Boxers
  • Cocker Spaniels
  • Doberman Pinschers
  • Greyhounds
  • Bernese Mountain Dogs
  • Chinese Shar-pei Dogs

Increasing Signs of Hypothyroidism in Dogs

Normal thyroid hormone levels vary per animal. When a dog is T3 and T4 deficient, his body shows one or more of the following signs.

  • Hair loss
  • Poor coat condition
  • Skin disease with or without puss
  • Hyperpigmentation
  • Anemia
  • Sleepiness
  • Ear infections
  • Weight gain
  • Toe nail infection
  • Weakness

Steps To Identify Hypothyroidism in Dogs

Physical assessment, laboratory tests, examination of clinical signs, and an analysis of the health history help confirm the diagnosis of hypothyroidism in dogs. It is a must to check T3 and T4 levels through blood tests.

Effective Treatment of Hypothyroidism in Dogs

Hormone Medications

If the cause of hypothyroidism is congenital or idiopathic, synthetic thyroid, such as L-thyroxine or levothyroxine is prescribed. In the event of the removal of the thyroid gland, the same medication helps overcome the absence of thyroid hormones in the body.

Synthetic thyroid hormones are generally affordable. They come in tablet or liquid form. The medication is taken on an empty stomach for better absorption. However, the intake excessive, unregulated amount of synthetic thyroid hormones can lead to hyperthyroidism.

Diet and Exercise

Changes in diet and regular exercise are also recommended for dogs with hypothyroidism. Although these methods do not really treat the disease, they help keep the affected dog in good shape. Hypothyroidism slows down the metabolism and dogs gain weight and become obese. Diet and exercise help keep him fit and energetic.

Iodine Supplementation

If your dog eats commercial dog food, iodine supplementation is not really needed. However, if you prefer cooking for your dog, find out how much iodine your dog needs daily and add it accordingly. Be careful when adding iodine to your dog’s diet, as too much or too little Iodine can make his hypothyroidism worse.

Ways To Prevent Hypothyroidism in Dogs

Studies have shown that idiopathic hypothyroidism has a genetic link, which means it cannot be totally prevented. There is also no definite way to prevent hypothyroidism caused by cancer and the shrinking of the thyroid gland.

But, other forms of hypothyroidism can be prevented by avoiding their respective causes.

  • Hypothyroidism caused by neck injury can be prevented by opting to use a harness when walking your dog instead of a collar.
  • The disease can be also be prevented by controlling or stopping your dog’s steroid medication. Do not forget to talk to your veterinarian before stopping your dog’s medication.

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