Initially, I overlooked hypothyroidism. Obviously, I knew it could cause all of the above syptoms, but it generally also presents with hair loss, skin discoloration, and bacterial skin infections. That's when I started looking at borderline hypothyroidism.
What is canine hypothyroidism?
Canine hypothyroidism is a disorder of the thyroid gland. This affects the dog's metabolism and the regulation of the dog's metabolic rate.
Can my dog have hypothyroidism?
While it is possible for any dog to suffer from hypothyroidism, it is more common in medium to large dogs. There is often a genetic factor to the disease, so it is more common in the following breeds:
- Golden retrievers
- Doberman pinschers
- Irish setters
- Cocker spaniels
- Airedale terriers
What are the symptoms?
There are quite a few symptoms, and your dog may have one or many. They include, but are not limited to:
- Lethargic behavior such as a lack of interest in play, frequent napping, tiring out on long walks
- Weight gain, sometimes without an apparent gain in appetite
- Bacterial infections of the skin
- Dry skin
- Hair loss, especially on the trunk or tail (“rat’s tail”)
- Discoloration or thickening of the skin where hair loss has occurred
- Cold intolerance/seeking out warm places to lie down
- Slow heart rate
- Chronic ear infections
- Severe behavioral changes such as unprovoked aggression, head tilt, seizures, anxiety and/or compulsivity
The best way is to have your vet run a thyroid panel (a simple blood test). Many vets, however, have not yet recognized border hypothyroidism as an issue. Luckily, my vet did. I was told that technically normal levels fall between .9 and 4.0, but that it's best to see somewhere over 2.0. It is generally accepted that the higher side of normal is preferred. So, consult your vet, but if your dogs levels are below 2.0 it might be best to try a low dose treatment.
How do I treat hypothyroidism?
There is no cure for hypothyroidism, but it is treatable. Most often, veterinarians will prescribe a synthetic hormone replacement called thyroxine, but regular blood tests will be required to test the effectiveness and to make sure the dosage is correct. Also, dogs with proper treatment tend to lead normal, long lives.
Is the medication dangerous?
Just as with any medication, some dogs can have reactions. However, side affects with thyroxine tend to be low, and with proper monitoring it is consider to be quite safe. Also, thyroxine is fairly inexpensive, so it's also safe for the budget!
So, all in all, if you think your dog may have thyroid issues talking to your vet certainly won't hurt anything. And, certainly, don't be afraid to consider that his behavior issues are actually thyroid-related. You could end up helping your dog in more ways than one.