"The Airedale terrier and autoimmune hypothyroiditis
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"The Airedale terrier and autoimmune hypothyroiditis

Dogs
Health & Safety

The Airedale terrier is a large terrier breed that is intelligent, energetic and very quick witted. For dog owners who love the terrier temperament but that are looking for a larger terrier rather than one from the numerous smaller breeds within the group, the Airedale is certainly worth considering.

They are a very loyal breed that forms strong bonds with their families, and they are also notably generally very good with children, often being very protective of them. This, along with the tight wiry coat that dogs of the breed have that means that they don’t shed a lot of hair around the home, makes them a good choice of pet for both families and individuals who want to own a smart, lively dog that can learn lots of commands.

Airedale terriers are also usually reasonably long lived for a large dog breed, with an average lifespan of 11-2 years, and individual dogs of the breed may of course live well beyond this. However, Airedales also have elevated risk factors for quite a long list of hereditary health conditions that can affect both the dog’s longevity and quality of life, and this is something that all prospective Airedale puppy buyers should be aware of.

One such hereditary health condition that can be found within the Airedale terrier dog breed is autoimmune hypothyroiditis, and this is in fact one of the most common types of thyroid disorders that can develop across dogs as a whole.

In this article we will look at autoimmune hypothyroiditis in the Airedale terrier in more detail, examining how the condition affects dogs, the symptoms to look out for, and the prognosis for affected dogs. Read on to learn more.

What is autoimmune hypothyroiditis?

Autoimmune hypothyroiditis is a type of thyroid disorder that develops when antibodies present in the dog’s bloodstream or bodily tissues attack the dog’s thyroid functions, which in turn has a knock-on effect on the production of two essential thyroid hormones, known as T3 and T4 respectively.

T3 and T4 are essential hormones that help or enable a range of vital bodily functions, and an imbalance or deficiency in one or both of them can have a number of diverse and acute effects on the dog’s health.

As an immune-mediated disorder, the dog’s own immune system is the cause of the problem, and this is a hereditary issue in contrast to thyroid disorders that are acquired or develop due to an underlying issue or illness like cancer.

What sort of Airedale terriers are at risk of autoimmune hypothyroiditis?

We don’t know for sure why any given dog might develop autoimmune hypothyroiditis, but the fact that it is more common within certain dog breeds and certain breed lines of those breeds indicates that it is hereditary in nature, and may be passed on through the gene pool from affected dogs to their own offspring.

It can affect both male and female dogs, and can develop at a range of ages, but dogs who have close relatives with the condition can fairly be considered to be more at risk than others.

What are the symptoms of autoimmune hypothyroiditis?

The symptoms of autoimmune hypothyroiditis in the Airedale terrier can be quite hard to pin down, because they tend to generate a systemic effect on the dog’s body and produce a wide and varied range of symptoms that can be hard to pinpoint and trace back to their root cause.

Some of the symptoms of autoimmune hypothyroiditis in the Airedale terrier that you might observe in an affected dog include:

  • Alopecia or painless hair loss.
  • Weight gain for no obvious reason.
  • A greasy, tacky texture to the dog’s fur, which may also be prone to dandruff.
  • Lethargy and lack of interest in play and exercise.
  • Papery, fragile skin that injures easily.
  • Changes in skin pigmentation.
  • A tendency to feel the cold.
  • Eye problems, including fatty deposits on the cornea, and/or dry eye.
  • Digestive upsets such as diarrhoea and vomiting, or constipation.

If the condition is left untreated or has already become very acute, affected dogs may also display more obvious and serious symptoms too, including obsessive pacing or circling, aggressive behaviour, and loss of muscle coordination.

Can the condition be treated or cured?

If you spot symptoms such as those outlined above, it is really important to have your dog seen by your vet as soon as possible, so that a formal diagnosis can be made and treatment begun promptly.

Your vet will need to run a number of tests to confirm diagnosis and rule out any other conditions that can produce similar symptoms, which will likely include blood and urine tests to determine the levels of the T3 an T4 hormones present within your dog’s body, and whether or not they fall within normal parameters.

Fortunately, autoimmune hypothyroiditis in Airedale terriers can usually be brought under control and managed effectively with medications once a formal diagnosis has been reached, but finding the right treatment regime can take quite a lot of monitoring and experimentation to get the balance right.

Dogs with autoimmune hypothyroiditis will usually go on to live normal, healthy lives when their condition is properly medicated and controlled, but this will require observation and regular check-ups with the vet in the future too in order to safeguard the dog’s health.

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