Thyroid problems in dogs are fairly common and often treatable. Here are 2 types of thyroid disease in dogs, symptoms, and corresponding treatments.
What is the thyroid?
The thyroid gland is located in the dog’s neck and produces the hormone thyroxine (T4) along with other hormones. These play a major role in your dog’s metabolism and problems arise when they aren’t produced at normal levels. Thus, the thyroid is essentially the body’s thermostat.
Types of Thyroid Problems
Hypothyroidism occurs when your dog isn’t secreting enough thyroid hormones and this causes his metabolism to slow. This condition is more common in dogs than other animals.
In 95% of cases, it’s the destruction of the thyroid gland that causes hypothyroidism and is usually the result of either lymphocytic thyroiditis or idiopathic atrophy.
Other potential causes are medications such as corticosteroids, lack of exercise and exposure to toxins (including vaccinations).
Hypothyroidism shows these symptoms:
- Mental dullness
- Exercise intolerance
- Cold intolerance
- Weight gain without a change in appetite
- Changes in coat and skin such as hair thinning and shedding
- Thickening of the skin
- Reproductive disturbances
Some breeds appear to have a greater risk of this condition than others. Medium to large breeds are more susceptible whereas smaller breeds are less likely to develop problems.
Here are some of the breeds who are more genetically predisposed to the disease:
- Cocker Spaniels
- Airedale Terriers
- Doberman Pinschers
- Golden and Labrador Retrievers
- Irish Setters
Most dogs develop hypothyroidism between the ages of 4 and 10.
The Merck Veterinary Manual states that hypothyroidism is one of the most misdiagnosed diseases in dogs. This is because there are many diseases that mimic it. So, your veterinarian can run a test for T3 levels which is generally included in a complete thyroid profile. She can also test for T4 concentration and this is a good initial screening for the disease. Another test is the Free T4 and veterinarians consider it a more accurate evaluation of thyroid activity. Other tests may follow such as X-rays.
Treatment of Hypothyroidism
In most cases, your dog will need to take a synthetic thyroid pill for the rest of his life. However, if there is no autoimmune disorder, it’s possible to stimulate the remaining thyroid to begin working again through natural treatments.
Certified Veterinary Homeopath Dr. Jeff Feinman offers homeopathy which is a form of treatment based on the concept that “like cures like.” What this means is that a substance that normally causes an illness can cure that illness. The substance can come from a mineral, plant or animal and is usually highly diluted.
This is when the thyroid gland overproduces thyroxine. This condition is rarer in dogs than hypothyroidism and usually is caused by an aggressive tumor.
Raw food diets can also cause this condition. These include gullets, head meat and animal necks.
Here some of the symptoms of this disease:
- Excessive weight loss
- Increased appetite
- Increased thirst
- Frequent urination
- Difficulty breathing
- Irregular heartbeat
- Enlarged thyroid gland felt as a lump in the neck
Treatment of Hyperthyroidism
The treatment depends on the cause of the condition. Unfortunately, it’s more common for the disease to result from aggressive thyroid cancer. Treatment may include surgical removal of the tumor. Additionally, your veterinarian may administer chemotherapy and radiation. Benign tumors are easier to manage and may respond well to treatment. However, this is not so with malignant tumors as they can often spread. The earlier the treatment begins, the better the chance of recovery. In those cases where a dog recovers, dietary restrictions become part of the treatment and must be followed
Sometimes hyperthyroidism is caused by reaction to the medication for hypothyroidism. In this case, dosage can usually be adjusted until levels return to normal. If it’s caused by a diet that contains high levels of hormones, a dietary change is usually enough to reverse the condition.
Again, hypothyroidism is when your dog is not secreting enough hormone and hyperthyroidism occurs when he’s secreting too much hormone. So, if you get a diagnosis from you veterinarian, make sure you understand the difference. Also remember that hypothyroidism is much more common in dogs.
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