Canine hypothyroidism can be an extremely scary and frustrating situation for a pet owner. It can cause your beloved dog to feel weak and lethargic, without knowing why.
Here’s some information on what causes this illness of the thyroid gland, and some things you can do that can help manage your dog’s condition.
What is Canine Hypothyroidism?
The thyroid is one of the most important glands in your dog’s body, producing hormones that make sure their metabolism works as it should. Hypothyroidism is the result of reduced thyroid hormone production.1
When a dog’s thyroid is too active, the condition is known as hyperthyroidism. When it’s not active enough, that’s called hypothyroidism.2
Diagnosing hypothyroidism in your dog can be challenging for veterinarians, as many different ailments mimic the symptoms. That said, recent advancements in vet medicine have led to more accurate and timely diagnosis of canine hypothyroidism.3
When a dog’s metabolism slows down, it can affect just about every organ in their body. A dog with a thyroid gland that isn’t active enough will usually show several symptoms, including:
- Unexplained weight gain
- Lack of interest in normal activities (like going for a walk or playing)
- Intolerance to cold
- A dull, dry coat
- Hair loss
- Flaky skin4
Dogs with hypothyroidism may also have an increased susceptibility to ear or skin infections, and an inability to grow hair back after a trip to the groomer.5
In some rare cases, a dog with an underactive thyroid gland’s facial skin may thicken. Dogs might drag their feet, tilt their heads, or show a lack of coordination. They might also develop fatty deposits in their eyes. Females who haven’t been spayed will often times not go into heat. Males who haven’t been neutered will often show a lack of sexual drive.6
While any type of dog can develop this thyroid gland disorder, there are a few breeds that are more susceptible than others. These breeds include:
- Golden Retriever
- Doberman Pinscher
- English Setter
- Old English Sheepdog
- Skye Terrier
- Giant Schnauzer
It’s important to note that while certain breeds may tend to develop thyroid issues more than others, all dogs can develop hypothyroidism.7
Two diseases cause the vast majority – approximately 95 percent – of hypothyroidism cases: lymphocytic thyroiditis and idiopathic thyroid gland atrophy. Lymphocytic thyroiditis is an immune disorder. It causes the immune system to attack the thyroid gland, because it thinks the gland is a foreign invader. Thyroid gland atrophy occurs when the tissue of the thyroid gland turns to fat.8
If your veterinarian suspects that your dog has a thyroid gland problem, they’ll more than likely take a blood sample to measure the thyroid hormone level in your dog’s blood. The vet will then perform another test to determine the level of a specific thyroid hormone, known as thyroxine, in your dog’s blood.
Unfortunately, canine hypothyroidism cannot be cured. However, there are ways you can help manage your dog’s condition, so that they can live the healthiest, happiest life possible. Your veterinarian will be able to help guide you, and offer medical solutions which can help ease symptoms. He or she may also recommend natural alternatives.9
In many instances, reducing the bad fats in your dog’s diet may help reduce the symptoms they’re experiencing.10
Never give your dog anything for a thyroid hormone problem until talking to your vet first.
The Final Word
Is your pup showing symptoms of a thyroid issue, like weight gain, hair loss, or lethargy? Get them to your vet for a check-up. If your dog does develop a problem with their thyroid gland, it’s troubling. But while the problem cannot be cured, it can be successfully managed, and your dog may eventually recover to the point that they’ll be once again alert and active. With help from your veterinarian, you can help your pooch feel better and improve their quality of life.