How to Spot and Treat Hypothyroidism in Dogs - Simply For Dogs
Hypothyroidism in Dogs

How to Spot and Treat Hypothyroidism in Dogs

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Welcome back to the blog, readers. Today I wanted to talk to you about a severe condition that more and more dogs are developing all the time. Just like their human counterparts, dogs are growing more unhealthy and more overweight all the time. And for many dogs, this translates into serious health conditions such as hypothyroidism. In this article, you’ll learn what that is, what causes it, how to spot the symptoms, and how dogs with this condition are treated.

My interest in this topic was piqued recently by – what else? – a trip to the dog park. I loaded Janice and Leroy up early one morning before it got too hot, and headed out to play some fetch and get in some play time with any other dogs that may be around. While I was there, someone that I’ve met a few times mentioned that his older dog had recently been diagnosed with hypothyroidism, and just wasn’t feeling up to coming to the park.

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That got me interested because I hadn’t really heard of hypothyroidism changing a dog’s energy levels. I knew it could cause some behavioral changes, but I was uneducated about the other symptoms. So I went hunting, and here’s what I learned.

What is Hypothyroidism in Dogs?

Just as with people, dogs have a gland in the neck that helps the metabolism work and produces hormones needed for digestion and things like that. It’s called the thyroid gland, and it is essential because it makes all sorts of things. One of the hormones it produces is called thyroxine, or T4. This hormone is responsible for helping the body turn food into the fuel it needs to survive – without it, the body isn’t getting the fuel it needs, no matter how much the dog eats. Pretty scary, right?

What Causes Hypothyroidism in Dogs?

Hypothyroidism happens when that gland doesn’t produce enough T4. There are many reasons why a thyroid may stop producing T4. It could be a genetic disorder in which the body’s immune system attacks itself. It could be caused by thyroid cancer. It could be other disorders like a shrinking thyroid. However, it could also be caused by things like overdoses of flea and tick medication, or an allergy to heartworm medication. Even an injury to the neck from a collar that is too tight could be the culprit.

Symptoms of Canine Hypothyroidism

Here’s what I found the most interesting in doing this research. Some of the first warning signs of hypothyroidism in a dog are behavioral changes. An ordinarily sweet dog that has always gotten along well with kids may suddenly just snap one day and bite them. A dog that was always cheerful and happy to see you may start refusing to greet you when you get home. A significant change in a dog’s personality could be the very first sign that they are suffering from this problem.

Another early symptom is weight gain, even when your dog isn’t eating more, and is still getting their usual amount of exercise. But these two things are just the start. Here are some other changes you may see in your dog:

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  • They may suddenly have what look like furrowed, drooping brows above their eyes, where there never were any before.
  • They may suddenly start to be very sluggish and tired all the time. They may not want to play tug of war or go to the park anymore.
  • Your dog may start losing hair in patches. Small bald spots may begin appearing anywhere on the body. The back of their rear legs, their tail, and their trunk are all places where you may see more hair loss than other areas.
  • Your dog’s skin may suddenly begin having issues. If they start developing hot spots, itching a lot, getting rashes, or otherwise having problems with their skin, it could be due to the thyroid. You might see patches of skin that are black or discolored.
  • They may not want to go outside in the cold, and they may seem to be continually seeking out heat.
  • Your dog may start losing muscle mass, gaining weight, or both. Pay attention to the shape and tone of the legs.
  • Your dog may start having a lot of infections. Their ears and toenails are especially prone to infections when they have hypothyroidism.
  • In very severe cases, a dog may also have a seizure when they have hypothyroidism or may start to walk and move in a way that looks uncoordinated, as though they’ve forgotten how to walk.
  • Female dogs may not go into heat anymore, which indicates an issue with fertility.

There are certain breeds more prone to hypothyroidism than others. Irish Setters, Golden Retrievers, Cocker Spaniels, Boxers, Dachshunds, and Doberman Pinchers are all more likely to develop this problem than other dogs. Most often, the condition shows up in the middle age years, between four and ten, and it tends to happen more so for the larger breeds on the list.

Hypothyroidism in Dogs

In order to accurately diagnose hypothyroidism in dogs, the vet will take a blood sample, and test it for T4 levels. If they are too low, then the hypothyroidism is confirmed. The vet will also consider the dog’s symptoms and history when making the diagnoses, however. If the results aren’t conclusive, there is another test that can be done. In this one, the vet will give your dog a hormone that is meant to stimulate the thyroid to make T4. If there is no increase after this injection, then it is safe to say that the thyroid isn’t working. This is a more expensive test, so it is often the last resort. For the most part, the symptoms and the initial blood test will tell the vet what they need to know.

How Dogs Are Treated for Hypothyroidism

Luckily, hypothyroidism is treatable. This isn’t a life or death diagnosis for a dog the same way that being diagnosed with thyroid cancer could be. It’s actually not too hard or too pricey to treat this condition, so don’t worry! Your dog can still have a long and happy life; you just have to do a few things.

  • In order to properly get fuel from food, dogs do need that metabolic hormone. Therefore, they’ll need a medication that gives them a synthetic dose of that hormone. For most dogs, this is provided in pill form twice a day and has been proven over and over again to be safe and effective.
  • The next thing is that you do need to monitor your dog’s blood levels to ensure they are getting the right dose of the hormone. Many dogs can be decreased to just one pill a day if you find the right balance.
  • In order to deal with some of the symptoms of the illness, be sure to put your dog on a diet that is low in fillers and fat, and keep them active.
  • You may need to request medication for the skin problems, like antibiotics or medicated lotions.

The good news is that as your dog’s hormone levels balance out, other issues within the body causing the hypothyroidism are often corrected on their own. But the truth is that you can’t ever take your dog off this medication. They’ll need that hormone for the rest of their life because the thyroid won’t ever get back to correctly producing it. But this medication isn’t terribly expensive, and treating your dog for this illness will drastically improve their life. You also won’t have to worry about dangerous behavior issues just by taking care of this problem.

In the rare cases that this is caused by a tumor, then the cancer will need to be treated separately. Additionally, throughout the rest of your dog’s life, you will need to be watching their skin, weight, coat, and activity level to make sure they aren’t showing signs of needing more of the hormone.

The First Steps to Take If You Suspect Your Dog Has This Condition

Once I saw that Boxers were prone to this issue, I called up my vet Stephen. Now, with all the research I’ve done into Boxers, I’m sure I saw this listed somewhere. I just never had taken the time to dive deep into what hypothyroidism in dogs really was. I asked Stephen what someone should do if they think their dog may have this problem. Here are some steps to take right away if the symptoms sounded like your dog:

  • First, schedule an appointment with the vet. This condition isn’t life or death, but some of the symptoms could complicate your dog’s health in many other ways. For example, chronic ear infections could lead to hearing loss.
  • Next, consider keeping your dog separate from small children or other pets if they have turned aggressive. Until the problem can be diagnosed and treated, it may be a good idea to use some dog gates to keep them confined to a “safe zone” in the house.
  • Continue to follow their usual schedule as best you can. Feed them normally and make sure they are exercising, even if they are a bit sluggish. Any movement is good movement.
  • For now, allow them to seek out the warmth they want if they seem to be having trouble with cold.
  • Start documenting any symptoms with pictures. This helps the vet know if the hair loss, skin problems, weight gain, or other issues are getting worse when you arrive. Go ahead and gather up any medical information you have about your dog and their parents as well; this may be important in the diagnostic process.

And now, if your dog has been diagnosed with hypothyroidism – what should you do?

  • First, don’t panic. It will take a little time for your dog’s body to regulate itself and go back to feeling healthy again. If they don’t start to act better right away, give it some time.
  • Follow the vet’s instructions carefully. It will take time to learn how to draw and test your dog’s blood, but it gets easier. Make sure you don’t experiment with medication doses without your vet’s instruction.
  • Continue to love your dog and play with them. If they need to lose some weight, be sure you’re also thinking about what sorts of training treats or snacks they get. If the answer is that you don’t know how many more calories they get every day in treats, then they are probably getting too many.

That’s it! I know that seems pretty simple, but hypothyroidism in dogs is a, thankfully, pretty simple thing to treat. And once you do, your dog will be so happy to be back to their usual sweet, energetic self.

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The Natural Pet Company Two Fantastic Quality Dog Toys in Beautiful Gift Box by (Tug-of-War Dog Rope Toy Double Pack) (For Interactive Play With Your Dog)
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The Natural Pet Company Two Fantastic Quality Dog Toys in Beautiful Gift Box by (Tug-of-War Dog Rope Toy Double Pack) (For Interactive Play With Your Dog)
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from $9.99
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Eagle Pack Natural Dry Reduced Fat Dog Food, Pork, Chicken & Fish, 30-Pound Bag
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Regalo Easy Step Walk Thru Gate, White, Fits Spaces between 29" to 39" Wide
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Last update on 2018-09-20 at 05:15 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

The Final Word

Hypothyroidism is something that some dogs do have to deal with in their life, similar to the way that some of us have to deal with heartburn when we drink too much coffee. The only difference is that hypothyroidism can cause more severe symptoms if it isn’t treated. So although I say it’s easy to treat and not fatal, it’s still not something to ignore.

Watch your middle-aged dog for weight gain and behavioral changes especially. These are the first significant signs that something is up, and that your dog needs to go to the vet. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that an ordinarily loving dog was provoked or is having an off day, should they get aggressive. The sooner you catch hypothyroidism, the fewer symptoms your dog will have to deal with.

I’m glad I know a bit more about this condition now so that I can start watching Janice and Leroy closer. They aren’t quite middle aged yet, though they are coming up on it very soon – but I’d rather be safe than sorry. You can use the information in this article to keep an eye on your pet as well, and hopefully, you’ll be able to offer your dog quick relief if they do develop this condition.

Related Content:

Should You Worry About Dark Spots on Your Dog’s Skin? (Video)
Amitriptyline for Dogs – Is Medication a Good Way to Calm Your Nervous Pet?
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21 Things Your Dog Should Never Ingest (and a bonus)

Sources:

https://www.vetbabble.com/dogs/hypothyroidism-in-dogs/

https://www.dogsnaturallymagazine.com/hypothyroidism-and-your-dog/

https://pets.webmd.com/dogs/hypothyroidism-in-dogs

About the Author Ash