Hypothyroidism can impact your dog’s quality of life and cause skin problems. Our PetVet Care Centers member vets explain the disease, its symptoms and how it’s treated.
What is hypothyroidism?
Located in the neck, the thyroid gland produces a hormone called thyroxine, which controls metabolism (the process of converting food into fuel). Issues occur when the gland doesn’t make enough of this hormone and hypothyroidism may become a problem in your dog.
Typically caused by autoimmune disease, the dog’s immune system begins to attack his thyroid gland tissue, although we are not sure why. This can result in the drop in production of the thyroid hormone, causing symptoms to appear.
A common disease for dogs, hypothyroidism can affect all breeds but is most often found in medium to large breeds such as Irish setters, boxers, dachshunds, cocker spaniels, Doberman pinschers and golden retrievers. As for age, its onset usually occurs in middle-aged dogs (ages 4 to 10). Neutered males and spayed females are also at higher risk.
What are symptoms of hypothyroidism in dogs?
Watch for these common symptoms of hypothyroidism in your pooch:
- Sores, scabs and repeated superficial skin infections that don’t clear up
- Weight gain
- Muscle loss
- Slow heart rate
- Ear or toenail infections
- Darkening of skin
- Rough, dull coat
- Thinning of fur
- Flaky skin
- Black patches on skin
- Excess scaling or shedding
- Excessive dandruff
- Ear infections
- Reduced physical activity
- Reduced ability to tolerate cold temperatures
As you might imagine, specific skin issues such as dandruff and infections can make for an uncomfortable dog. Substances called mucopolysaccarides may accumulate and result in “drooping” facial muscles.
However, while hair loss happens mostly on the body (not head and legs), it’s usually not paired with redness or itchy skin. You may sometimes see your pooch’s skin thicken and the pigment increase, especially where it rubs against itself, such as in the armpit.
Your vet may also notice your pup’s ability to walk is hindered or his body is weak due to abnormally functioning muscles and nerves. His esophagus may also be dilated, which can result in regurgitation. Though not widespread, the condition is also linked to seizures, issues with blood vessels and heart, and infertility.
The skin infections may need treatment, but once your vet has adjusted his thyroid medication to a level that works for him, the skin issues should resolve.
How is hypothyroidism in dogs diagnosed and treated?
Left untreated, hypothyroidism can impact your dog’s quality of life, so it’s important to book an appointment with your vet to get an official diagnosis.
Though there can be several symptoms, this disease isn’t life-threatening and it is fairly inexpensive to treat. Your veterinarian may complete numerous blood tests to diagnose the condition. He or she may prescribe specific doses of the manmade hormone levothyroxine (L-thyroxine) to be taken orally on a daily basis for the rest of your dog’s life.
There are also therapies such as low dose natural hormone replacement, homeopathy and glandulars which may help healing, along with fermented foods, high-quality, gluten-free natural foods, lots of exercise in nature and fluoride-free filtered water. Your dog may have sensitivities to certain foods or substances your vet will need to identify so you can avoid them.
Integrating a few natural fibrous nutrients such as green beans, carrot, cucumber, cooked broccoli, asparagus, lettuce, cooked spinach and mushrooms may also be recommended.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets.