Canine Hypothyroidism Disease

By Lori Newman

What is canine hypothyroidism disease?  Hypothyroidism is a common hormonal disorder in dogs.  One of the most important glands in the body is the thyroid gland. It is part of the hormone producing endocrine system.  It is located in the dog’s neck about half way down under the skin. It produces trilodothyronine, called T3 and thyroxine or T4, hormones your dog needs for normal metabolic function.  A thyroid disorder happens when the thyroid gland becomes diseased or destroyed and can not secrete enough hormones, resulting in hypothyroidism or low thyroid activity.  Hyperthyroidism or increased thyroid activity in dogs, is rare and occurs in cases of thyroid cancer or an overdose of thyroxine medications.

The thyroid effects all of the bodily symptoms which makes the disease hard to diagnose. The dog can go through a number of contradictory symptoms including weight gain and personality changes. The dog’s digestion and reproduction system can be affected too. This can cause diarrhea and infertility problems in the dog.

Dogs that have thyroid disease can suffer from cold intolerance, high cholesterol or ear inflammation.  The dog may suffer from circulatory problems such as a slow heart rate.

Symptoms of hypothyroidism include:

  • Skin and coat issues such as itchy skin, loss or thinning of hair.
  • Unexplained weight gain
  • Chronic infections of the ear, skin and foot and yeast infection
  • Listlessness, fatigue
  • Aggression, anxiety, and irritability
  • Stiffness
  • Nose bleeds and other external signs of bleeding
  • Gas and constipation
  • Irregular heat cycle

If left untreated, thyroid disease can result in terminal illness and death. You should look for abnormal behavior such as aggression, fear and anxiety. They can indicate early signs of hypothyroidism. Millions of dogs are euthanized each year for behavioral problems, when they may actually have suffered from a medically treatable thyroid dysfunction.

Almost 90% of canine hypothyroidism cases result from an inherited condition known as autoimmune thyroiditis.

Some breeds are more prone to thyroid dysfunction, such as Labrador and Golden Retrievers, Doberman, and Shetland Sheep Dog. No breed is immune to the disease.

Diagnosis of Hypothyroidism is done by performing a complete thyroid panel to check the dogs thyroid levels. A complete thyroid profile includes total T3, T4, Free T3, Free T4 and TgAA.

Hypothyroidism Treatment involves giving your dog thyroxine hormone replacement by mouth, twice daily, between meals. Most dogs show rapid improvement and can live long, healthy lives, as long as they remain on the thyroid medicine.

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