Our Shane Veterinary Medical Center vets frequently see hypothyroidism in dogs ranging from 4 - 10 years of age, and of many different breeds. This uncomfortable condition can impact your dog’s quality of life and cause host skin problems. Today we look at the causes and symptoms of hypothyroidism in dogs, and how it can be treated.
What Is Hypothyroidism In Dogs?
Located near the top of your dog's neck, the thyroid gland produces a hormone called thyroxine, which controls metabolism (the process of converting food into fuel). Issues occur when the thyroid either becomes overactive (hyperthyroidism) or under-active (hypothyroidism). If your dog is suffering from hypothyroidism it means that the thyroid isn't producing enough thyroxine to maintain a healthy, normal metabolism.
In dogs, hypothyroidism is most often caused by one of two diseases:
- Lymphocytic thyroiditis is the most common cause of hypothyroidism in dogs and is believed to be an immune-mediated disease. This means that your dog's immune system decides that the thyroid is abnormal or foreign and attacks it. While this condition is not well understood it is believed that genetics play a role.
- Idiopathic thyroid gland atrophy which occurs when normal thyroid tissue is replaced by fat tissue.
Hypothyroidism can affect any breed of dog but is most often found in medium to large breeds such as Irish setters, boxers, dachshunds, cocker spaniels, Doberman pinschers, and golden retrievers, at about 4 to 10 years of age. Neutered males and spayed females are also at higher risk of developing hypothyroidism, although it is unclear why this is the case.
What Are The Most Common Signs And Symptoms Of Hypothyroidism In Dogs?
Lack of thyroid hormone in the bloodstream results in several changes in the dog's body since thyroid hormones are responsible for maintaining normal metabolism, normal tissue repair levels, and a healthy immune system. Common symptoms of hypothyroidism in dogs can include one or more of the following:
- Sores and scabs on the skin
- Weight gain without increased appetite
- Repeated superficial skin infections
- Muscle loss
- Slow heart rate
- Ear infections
- Drooping facial muscles
- Infertility in male dogs
- Black patches on the skin
- Inability to tolerate cold temperatures
- Excess scaling or shedding
- Excessive dandruff
- Ear infections
- Reduced physical activity
- Lack of coordination
- Lack of heat periods or miscarriage in females
- Darkening of the skin
- Skin infections that do not clear up
- Rough, dull coat
- Thinning of fur
- Flaky, itchy skin
- Toenail infections
- Head tilt
- Fatty deposits in the eyes
How Is Hypothyroidism Diagnosed In Dogs?
While not life-threatening, left untreated this disease can make your dog very uncomfortable and unhappy. 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?
Dogs diagnosed with hypothyroidism are frequently prescribed a manmade hormone called levothyroxine (L-thyroxine) which will need to be taken orally daily for the rest of your dog’s life. Other therapies and treatments include low-dose natural hormone replacement, homeopathy and glandular that may help healing, fermented foods, high-quality, gluten-free natural foods, as well as increased exercise in nature and fluoride-free filtered water.
Changes to your dog's diet may also help to reduce symptoms of hypothyroidism. 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.