Dogs can have under-active thyroids |

Dogs can have under-active thyroids

Nadine Lober

We already know owners and their pets are susceptible to some of the same diseases. A rather common one, which is sometimes over-diagnosed by veterinarians, is hypothyroidism. This is a deficiency of thyroid hormones, specifically thyroxine and triiodothyronine. You may have seen or know overweight people who appear sluggish and have trouble shedding the pounds. Lower than normal thyroid hormones can cause these symptoms, and your dog may be in the same boat.Common questions are: What are the signs of hypothyroidism, and will my dog manifest all of them or just a few?The clinical signs, which usually appear gradually, consist of: Intolerance to cold weather, weight gain, lethargy and, the most common, skin problems such as dry, thick or oily skin, dry hair, and hair loss. If the disease has impaired a dog’s immune system, the skin may be infected. Heart rate can also decrease. A dog may only exhibit one or a few symptoms. What breed of dog is usually affected?Hypothyroidism is most common in purebred, mid-size to large dogs, such as boxers, cocker spaniels, dachshunds, Doberman pinschers, golden retrievers, great Danes, miniature schnauzers, poodles and beagles. The disease becomes apparent between the ages of 3 and 8, and females usually have more thyroid trouble than males. Is this a serious condition?Any condition that affects your dog’s well being should be considered serious. But this is a very treatable disease and the symptoms will subside with proper treatment.If left untreated then the conditions will worsen and might even cause some irreversible problems.How do you diagnose hypothyroidism?A thorough history and physical exam is needed. Then a blood test is performed. The diagnosis can be tricky because underlying conditions or other illnesses can cause thyroid hormone levels to drop. In this circumstance it is very important to rule out other causes of the clinical signs. For instance, a dog with a liver condition may have a low thyroid level, but the liver problems must be treated before the thyroid problem. And once the liver condition is treated, a repeat blood test may reveal normal thyroid levels. How do you know whether to treat the dog?A dog is treated when clinical signs are obvious, the thyroid level is low, and no other illnesses have been found. Dogs are given a thyroid hormone supplement, usually twice a day. Can I discontinue treatment once the dog gets better?No. A dog with hypothyroidism is usually treated for life. You need to retest the thyroid levels four weeks after starting the medication, and then every six or 12 months thereafter. Occasionally, a dog might only need half of the suggested dose if thyroid levels are too high. Vail, Colorado

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