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3 Steps for Using Dog Thyroid Medications

Caring for a Dog with Hypothyroidism

By Sam Bourne. October 23, 2013 | See Comments

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Dog thyroid medications generally contain a single drug, known as levothyroxine sodium, which is a man-made substitute for the hormone produced (or not produced) by the thyroid gland. If you have reason to believe that your dog is hypothyroid, or want to know how hypothyroid treatment in dogs works, look no further.

Why Would My Dog Need Thyroid Medication?

Many dogs are prone to getting hypothyroidism, which is the technical term for what happens when your dog’s thyroid gland is unable to produce a sufficient amount of (or possibly any) thyroxine, the hormone responsible for regulating metabolism. Without the proper amount of thyroxine being produced, your dog might start to seem lethargic and generally unwell. If the condition is allowed to persist it could result in corneal ulcers, anemia, or a more serious condition known as adult-onset megaesophagus, which can be life threatening.

To people whose dogs are exhibiting signs of the onset of hypothyroidism, here is what you should do.

1. Go to the Vet

If you have reason to believe your dog might be suffering from hypothyroidism, the sooner you have your dog looked at by a vet, the better. Some signs to look out for include:

  • Thinning fur
  • Dull coat
  • Weight gain
  • Lethargy
  • Unable to exercise
  • Darkening in skin pigmentation

If you notice that your dog is exhibiting any of the aforementioned symptoms, tell your vet.

2. Give them Medicine

If the vet determines that your dog is hypothyroid, they will most likely put your dog on levothyroxine sodium, which is a synthetic compound that mimics the effects of thyroxine, helping to manage the dog's basal metabolic rate, protein synthesis, and increase the body's sensitivity to catecholamines, such as adrenaline.

While the effects of this drug are only short term, so long as your dog continues their levothyroxine treatment, they should be able to live a long, fruitful life, free from the symptoms of hypothyroidism. That being said, chances are your hypothyroid dog will require medication for the rest of their life, as the condition, while treatable, has no known cure.

There are a number of different manufacturers that produce a levothyroxine sodium tablet. You can find it sold as:

The proper dosage for your dog can vary based on the severity of your pet's condition, their body weight, and how they react to the drug. Detecting how they react means monitoring their condition, so make sure you pay close attention to how your dog seems to be dealing with the change. Some dogs with need an adjustment to their dosage.

Levothyroxine sodium needs to be taken on an empty stomach, so a good time to administer the drug is a half hour or more before mealtimes. Four weeks after your dog has started on the medication, go back to the vet so they can check on how your dog is responding to the treatment and calibrate their dosage. Once you finally optimize your dog's treatment the only thing left to do is…

3. Watch for Adverse Side Effects

Remember to keep close watch over how your dog is dealing with the levothyroxine treatment, as an overdose could result in thyrotoxicosis, which can be detected through an increase in thirst, hunger, and hyperactivity. If you notice these symptoms, consider taking your dog back to the vet, who will likely reduce their dosage.

While there's no way, as of yet, to restore your dog’s malfunctioning thyroid gland back to health, these treatments are generally effective, letting your dog live out the rest of their years free from the pain of hypothyroidism.

Want to Save Money on Your Dog's Treatment?

If your dog is hypothyroid and you are worried about the costs of the treatment, consider becoming a member with PetPlus, our groundbreaking new pet protection plan which offers savings on medication, veterinary visits, and vaccinations, up to 75%!

More on Pet Thyroid Health

Canine Hypothyroidism: 5 Things You Should Know
Thyroid Problems in Cats: The Likely Cause
Thyroid Problems in Dogs:A Guide to Hypothyroidism

This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian with respect to your pet. It has, however, been verified by a licensed veterinarian for accuracy.

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