Canine hypothyroidism

Canine hypothyroidism

Health & Safety

The condition called hypothyroidism occurs when the dog’s thyroid gland does not produce enough of the hormones that it should, which are essential in order to allow the dog to metabolise their food properly. Hypothyroidism can be caused by a whole host of different things, or for no obvious reason at all, but after diagnosis, the condition can be treated on an ongoing basis with oral medications to help to correct the imbalance.

Hypothyroidism is one of the most common chronic canine health conditions, and for this reason, it is a good idea for all dog owners to garner a basic understanding of the condition, and know how to identify it, should it develop. We will look at these factors in more detail within this article.

Why do some dogs develop hypothyroidism?

It is not always possible to get to the root cause of the problem and what has caused it, but some of the more frequently diagnosed reasons for the condition include:

  • Deficiencies in the body’s iodine levels.
  • Autoimmune conditions.
  • Tumours and some cancers that can affect the thyroid of the dog.
  • Hereditary conditions.
  • As a secondary complication of treatment with certain medicines to treat other conditions.

Identifying a problem

Hypothyroidism can potentially present with a fairly wide ranging set of symptoms, which means that the condition can potentially go a long time before a formal diagnosis is reached. While all of the symptoms listed below are not necessarily an indication of hypothyroidism, they are some of the most commonly seen symptoms of the condition, and merit veterinary examination if identified. Symptoms to be on the lookout for include:

  • Gaining weight for no obvious reason.
  • Laziness and reluctance to go for walks.
  • Weakening muscles.
  • A dull, dry coat.
  • Excessive shedding or patchy loss of fur.
  • A tendency to pick up minor infections, and taking longer than normal to fully recover from them.
  • Feeling the cold.

Getting a formal diagnosis

If you spot any of the above symptoms in your dog, it is important to get your vet to check them out and find out what lies at the root of the issue. Your vet will first of all ask you about the symptoms that you have noticed, and examine this in combination with your dog’s medical history, and a full physical examination.

If your vet then narrows down the potential diagnosis to include hypothyroidism, they will then need to run some additional tests on the dog’s blood and urine, which can sometimes help to rule out or confirm the condition.

Generally, your vet will need to run some endocrine level tests on your dog too, which tells them if the two main thyroid hormones, T3 and T4, are present in the right quantities, or are not within accepted parameters. In some cases, your vet may also run other tests, such as an x-ray or ultrasound examination, to try to identify an underlying problem causing the condition.

What type of dogs are apt to develop hypothyroidism?

Hypothyroidism in the dog is relatively common across the board, but is more likely to develop in large and giant breeds rather than small dogs. It is also slightly more prevalent in neutered pets and older dogs, and is unlikely to be diagnosed until the dog is at least four years old.

Certain breeds of dog also seem to have an elevated chance of developing the condition, including the Boxer, Doberman, Cocker spaniel, Golden retriever and Dachshund.

Treating hypothyroidism

It is not possible to cure hypothyroidism or make it go away, and in order to manage the condition, the dog will need to have supplemental hormone therapy for the remainder of their life.

Oral medications that correct the body’s hormone levels are usually prescribed, and these are given daily. Once the condition is brought under control, your dog’s condition will usually return to normal. Medications will need to be administered for the remainder of your dog’s life, however, the cost of these meds is usually just a couple of pounds per week, and so is not prohibitively expensive.

Managing hypothyroidism at home

It is important to follow your vet’s guidelines on medicating your dog, and not to change or stop their meds without talking to your vet. You should also speak to your vet before you make any changes to your dog’s diet, or give them any supplements.

Your vet may wish to place your dog on a special diet that will lower their fat intake, and it is important to keep your dog fit and at a healthy weight for life, to avoid exacerbating the condition. Once the condition is properly medicated and brought under control, your dog will likely need to visit the vet on an outpatient basis every few months for monitoring, but aside from this, dogs with hypothyroidism can usually lead long and normal lives.



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