Hypothyroidism in Dogs: What is it? and How do I fix it?

It can be scary not knowing what is going on with our beloved pets, and it can be hard to diagnose your dog yourself. If you suspect that your dog has hypothyroidism you should take them to the Vet immediately. Hypothyroidism in dogs is not as tragic as it seems.

What is Hypothyroidism in Dogs:

The underproduction of the thyroid hormone Thyroxine from the thyroid gland in the dog’s neck. The Shrinkage of the gland slows down the metabolism causing the dog to slowly become lethargic, and be susceptible to inflammation. This is often misdiagnosed and confused with Hyperthyroidism, which the overproduction in the thyroid gland.

Now that we know what Hypothyroidism is in dogs, we can go into what some of the symptoms are, after all, We don’t want you leaving here worrying if your dog has Hypothyroidism or not. Here are some symptoms to look for.

What are the Symptoms of Hypothyroidism in Dogs

If your canine experience of hair combined with excess shedding or scaling, Know that these are the most common signs of Hypothyroidism in dogs.  The head and legs usually don’t loose fur as much as the torso, or the hips. Unlike other causes of hair loss, there is not any irritation surrounding the areas of loss.  Usually, the trunk and thighs are the first areas to go, followed by the front part of the tail closest to the hindquarters.  The front portion of the nose leading to the edge of the snout, as well as the edge of the neck closest to the back of the head.

Dogs with Hypothyroidism can show signs of having ear infections, or pain in their ears, they can develop a foul smell or redness in their ears. Dogs with hypothyroidism can show signs of discomfort around the ear area in general and are prone to ear infections.

Dogs with hypothyroidism move slower than they should for their age. They have excessive weight gain and a hard time with exercise. Your pooch can also have some abnormal functions of the facial features, lethargy and face drooping can be signed later on in life.

Because the metabolism is not quite up to par, sometimes the esophagus can be smaller than it should be causing the dog to regurgitate more frequently than normal. The abdominal muscles can also be weaker than normal because of the added weight, causing issues with walking and playing.

Treatment Options For Hypothyroidism in Dogs

The most common treatment for hypothyroidism in dogs is the supplementation of the hormone thyroxine which is produced by the Thyroid gland. The use of Levothyroxine allows the dog to naturally convert this supplement into the hormone that it needs to increase the metabolic rate.

This medication is most likely going to be administered orally for the remainder of the dog’s life. 1-2 times a day on an empty stomach at about .01-.02mg/lb of body weight. There have been no known cases of an overreaction or bad reaction to LT-4 as a treatment.

There are those rare cases where the canine’s immune system has created antibodies against t3 and t4 hormones in your dog’s body. For these cases, the synthetic concentration will still work, but you need to have this diagnosed by a veterinarian prior to administering any treatment.

It is estimated to cost between $5 and $10 dollars a month for the treatment of hypothyroidism in dogs.

Causes of Hypothyroidism in Dogs

Hypothyroidism in dogs is one of the most overdiagnosed conditions for canines, and because of this, you need to rule out any other conditions that can mimic hypothyroidism in dogs. Blood tests are used to determine the thyroid levels in your dog as a first step in the diagnosis. The only area of concern here is that some breeds naturally have low levels of the hormone in their bloodstream because of their breed. Greyhounds specifically.

Hypothyroidism in dogs can be genetic, or congenital meaning that it occurs in the genetic makeup of the dog before birth. I will spare you all of the scientific lingoes here, but basically, the most common cause is not genetics. It is the destruction of the thyroid gland itself by the dog’s body.

This doesn’t mean that the dog is self-harming or scratching too hard, this is basically the dog’s immune system replacing the good tissues with bad tissues in either the lymphocytic system or the idiopathic system.

What is a Thyroid Gland?

The thyroid gland is located on the sides of the trachea on most mammals and produces a hormone called Thyroxine. The pituitary gland controls the movement and production of this metabolic hormone. If too much is produced then the thyroid is overactive or hyper, too little and the thyroid is underactive and hypo.

The thyroid produces different hormones to regulate heart rate, metabolic rate, growth, and even temperature of the body. These hormones are called triiodothyronine or T-3.  The most common hormone is T-4 or Thyroxine

There are other hormones such as T-0 all the way through T-4, however, T-0, T-1, T-2, all appear to have no effect on the production of hormones within the Thyroid. These hormones are considered to be inert or in a state of stillness.

T-3 and T-4 are the hormones that are most affected by the conditions, T3 is the hormone that is used by the body, however, the dog’s body transforms synthetic T-4 into the T-3 hormone that it needs to counter the hypothyroidism in dogs.

What is the Most Common Reason Behind Hypothyroidism in Dogs

The autoimmune thyroiditis is a  condition that will destroy the thyroid on its own, attacking the thyroid as if it is an invasive species inside the body. The lymphatic system will produce antibodies as it fails to recognize the Thyroid as a normal organ that should be present in the composition of the dog.

If this is the case, as is in most cases, then a blood test will show anti-bodies produces in the bloodstream to fight off the “infection” which is really just your dog’s thyroid gland. This is not cancerous but it is the self-destruction of the gland from the dog’s own body.

Natural Treatment for Hypothyroidism in Dogs

The good news is that the most prescribed treatment is a natural treatment. Your dog is going to need the medication, but it is only a hormone. So even though the hormone T-4 is synthetic, it is also an exact match to the hormone your dog needs.

Carbohydrates play an important part in the dog’s diet and should be present in the proper ratios for your breed. If your dog lacks certain nutrients then the thyroid has a harder time working correctly. Feeding your dog an all-meat diet is never recommended, please check with your veterinarian to determine your dog’s exact nutritional needs.

Nutritional supplementation can go along way, make sure you talk to your veterinarian to find what supplements would work best for your pooch.

No more table scraps, sorry buddy, but you are cut off. Table scraps are meant for human consumption and although they get really happy because it tastes so good to them, it really does cause a lot of health problems. This doesn’t mean that you can’t sneak them a piece of turkey at Thanksgiving, but no more after dinner leftovers for the puppy.

Dog Breeds Prone to Hypothyroidism

Any dog can have Hypothyroidism, but it is common in some breeds over others, and some of those breeds include some of our Favorite breeds here in America:

  • Golden Retrievers
  • Doberman Pincher
  • Irish Setter
  • American Pit Bull
  • Cocker Spaniel
  • Airedale Terrier
  • Small to medium Breeds (4-10 years of age)

If you suspect that your dog has Hypothyroidism, then you should seek medical attention for them as soon as possible.  

What is the Most Common Reason Behind Hypothyroidism in Dogs

The autoimmune thyroiditis is a  condition that will destroy the thyroid on its own, attacking the thyroid as if it is an invasive species inside the body. The lymphatic system will produce antibodies as it fails to recognize the Thyroid as a normal organ that should be present in the composition of the dog.

If this is the case, as is in most cases, then a blood test will show anti-bodies produces in the bloodstream to fight off the “infection” which is really just your dog’s thyroid gland. This is not cancerous but it is the self-destruction of the gland from the dog’s own body.

 

What is a good diet for Hypothyroidism in Dogs

Feeding your dog can be challenging, the labels are really clear and every blog says something different, when you go to the vet they have brands they recommend, but they don’t seem to differ from the other brands out there, etc.

You want to look for high-quality ingredients when selecting good dog food for your dog. If it says the protein name followed by a listed meal, this is not high quality. Another term they use is bi-product, this is also not high quality. You want a real protein to be placed in the first slot on the bag. Chicken, Beef, or Salmon filets.

Corn should never be the first ingredient on your dog food bag, The first ingredient is the main ingredient, and most of the time the biggest quantity of all of the ingredients. You can find grain-free feed, but remember that your dog still needs some carbohydrates as well, maybe whole grains is not the answer, but look for things like peas, carrots, kale, and other things that they can eat.

No artificial additives to the dog food is a plus always, and you want to have the food be easily digestible for your dog. Probiotics can help with digestion and increase the metabolic rate that your dog has.

Canine Hypothyroidism Left Untreated

Although this is not a fatal disease it does affect your Canine’s life span and quality of life. When left untreated, the skin can thicken,  and in moderate to severe cases, the GI tract, heart, and skeletal muscles can experience the same response. This makes your best friend completely miserable, lethargic, and in pain.

This is not something that is just going to go away, and it is relatively easy to cure.

Hypothyroidism versus Hyperthyroidism

Hypothyroidism in dogs is the slowing of the metabolic rate, hyperthyroidism is the opposite, meaning that the thyroid glands are producing too much Thymoxine Hyperthyroidism is nothing to gawk at either, unlike Hypothyroidism, this can be deadly.

Hyperthyroidism occurs when the thyroid produces too much of the hormone, increasing the metabolic rhythm that your dog naturally has, this leads to:

  • Increased appetite and thirst
  • Weight loss
  • Hyperactivity
  • Increased kidney activity
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Congestive Heart Failure
  • Heart murmurs
  • Dyspnea
  • Cardiomegaly
  • Increased thyroid gland

 

 

This diagnosis can be caused by several things including a type of canine cancer called Carcinoma. If you are worried about your dog having Hyperthyroidism, please seek a veterinarian as soon as humanly possible.

Are the Diagnosis Tests Reliable?

For the most part, the T-4 test does exactly what they are designed to do, which measures the amount of T-4 in the dog’s blood. The issue arising from this test is accurate or not does not come from the test itself, but the measurements in which they are compared to.

Each dog breed, size, the mix is going to have different normal levels, so most veterinarians look for abnormalities within the T-4 mixture.  If the levels seem ridiculously off then the diagnosis obviously is positive. However, there can be other factors involved in having lower T-4 levels, including breed, diet, current exercise level, age, breed, and overall health.  

Using only a T-4 test to diagnose the dog with Hypothyroidism can come with its flaws, on the flip side of things, the more test you run the higher the vet bill becomes. So testing a combination of T-4 counts, White blood cell counts, and t-3 counts can provide a more in-depth picture of the dog’s overall condition.  Some doctors may recommend more panel tests to give you a better picture.

In most cases, you must have your dog’s blood sent off to a laboratory to have the full panel completed by licensed lab technicians. The in-house T-4 test can only measure so much, but they are a start in the correct direction, if that test comes back positive, then having the more extensive blood work would be beneficial.

Helpful Information & Tips

  • Don’t give the medication within 30 minutes of a calcium-rich meal
  • Don’t feed the medication with a meal
  • Give the medication directly by mouth
  • Increase your dogs exercise activity gradually
  • Look out for sudden behavior changes