What is hypothyroidism?
The thyroid gland is located in the neck and produces a hormone called thyroxine, which controls a dog’s metabolism (the process of converting food into fuel). When the gland doesn’t produce enough of this hormone, your dog may begin to experience symptoms of hypothyroidism.
Usually caused by autoimmune disease, hypothyroidism occurs when the dog’s immune system starts to attack his thyroid gland tissue, although we are unsure why. This can lead to a decrease in production of the thyroid hormone, causing your dog to exhibit symptoms.
Hypothyroidism is a common disease in dogs and can impact all breeds, though it is most often found in medium to large breeds such as cocker spaniels, golden retrievers, Doberman pinschers, dachshunds, boxers and Irish setters. Its onset usually happens in middle-aged dogs (ages 4 to 10). Spayed or neutered pooches are also at higher risk.
What are symptoms of hypothyroidism in dogs?
Look out for these common symptoms of hypothyroidism in your pup:
- Rough, dull coat
- Scabs, sores and repeated superficial skin infections that don’t clear up
- Weight gain
- Slow heart rate
- Darkening of skin
- Thinning of fur
- Black patches on skin
- Excessive dandruff
- Decrease in physical activity
- Reduced ability to tolerate cold temperatures
- Ear infections
- Excess shedding or scaling
- Flaky skin
- Ear or toenail infections
- Muscle loss
While dandruff and other infections can make your dog uncomfortable, substances called mucopolysaccarides may build up and result in the appearance of “drooping” facial muscles.
However, hair loss which occurs mostly on the body (not head or legs), is usually not accompanied by itchy skin or redness. You may occasionally see your pooch’s skin thicken and its pigmentation increase, especially where it rubs against itself, such as in the armpit.
Your vet may also notice that your furry friend’s muscles and nerves are functioning abnormally, hindering his walk or causing his body to weaken. He may also have a dilated esophagus, which can lead to regurgitation. Though not widespread, the condition has also been linked to issues with the heart and blood vessels, infertility and seizures.
Though skin infections may require treatment, once your vet has adjusted your pup’s thyroid medication to an appropriate level for him, skin issues should resolve.
How is hypothyroidism in dogs diagnosed and treated?
Untreated hypothyroidism can affect your dog’s quality of life, so it’s imperative to schedule an appointment with your veterinarian to get an official diagnosis so your pup can begin treatment.
There may be numerous symptoms, but this disease isn’t life-threatening and is fairly inexpensive to treat. Your dog may need several blood tests to diagnose the condition, and specific doses of the manmade hormone levothyroxine (L-thyroxine) may be described. Your dog will need to take these orally on a daily basis for the rest of his life.
Therapies such as low dose natural hormone replacement, glandulars and homeopathy may also help, in addition to high-quality, gluten-free natural foods, fermented foods, fluoride-free filtered water and lots of exercise in nature. If your dog has sensitivities to certain foods or substances, your vet will need to identify them so you can avoid them.
Your vet may also recommend incorporating a few natural fibrous nutrients such as cooked broccoli, lettuce, asparagus, cucumber, carrot, green beans, mushrooms, lettuce and cooked spinach.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets.
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