Hypothyroidism in dogs is a condition that can be perfectly manageable, typically treated through pills, administered daily. But it’s a condition that needs to be caught early. Occurring when the thyroid gland is unable to produce enough metabolism-regulating hormones, hypothyroidism is the deficiency in these critical hormones, and can lead to all sorts of other health problems if left untreated.
To catch this condition early, look for these signs that something might be awry. If you notice these symptoms, especially if several are occurring at the same time, ask your veterinarian to consider doing a full thyroid hormone blood panel to test for thyroid disease.
1. Inexplicable Weight Gain
The most common indication of thyroid disease in dogs is weight gain, even when their food intake hasn’t changed much. A hypothyroid dog may pack on the pounds because, without enough thyroid hormone, their metabolism slows way down.
2. Behavior Changes: Anxiety, Compulsive Behavior, or Aggression
These symptoms can be tricky. When a dog’s behavior changes out of the blue, it’s a clear indication that something may be wrong with them. However, when behavior changes gradually, as may be the case with a thyroid disorder, it can appear that a dog is simply getting older, and maybe getting a bit cranky.
Look for things like unprovoked or atypical aggression toward other dogs or people. Conversely, you might also look for an unusually passive or submissive behavior. Extremes on either side of the spectrum can be a sign that something is wrong.
Episodes of anxiety and nervousness can also be an indication that your dog isn’t feeling well. Compulsive behavior may present, including excessive chewing, digging, scratching, or licking.
Again, all of these instances could mean that any number of ailments may be troubling your dog. One distinction that can point to hypothyroidism is that these instances may culminate with the general sense that your dog is “coming out of” the experience. As if it took them by surprise.
3. Lack of Energy or Reduced Interest in Play
If your typically frisky pup has become a couch potato, it may be time to get them checked. Lethargy and a reduced interest in play can indicate all sorts of problems in pets, from heart disease to a common cold. However, when paired with apparent “mental fogginess,” or a lack of coordination, you could be dealing with hypothyroidism.
4. Skin and Fur Problems, Especially When They’re Chronic and Recurrent
When hypothyroidism is present, fur may become dull, then thin, then dry and brittle, and may ultimately fall out. The fur usually sheds the most from the dog’s torso, while the head and legs will remain fully covered. Fur loss can also begin at the tail, and work its way up the dog’s body. Some tails of hypothyroid dogs will become as bald as a rat’s.
Skin conditions can include a darkening, or excess pigmentation, of the skin, particularly around the armpits and groin areas.
One likely indication that hypothyroidism is causing skin and fur issues is that there will be no itchiness or excessive scratching associated with the issue, as there might be with a bacterial infection or pest infestation.
5. Eye and Ear Infections
Ear infections associated with hypothyroidism are typically bacterial staph infections. These infections are characterized by pain, redness, and odor in one or both ears. When this type of ear infection recurs, it could indicate that your dog has become hypothyroid.
Eye infections are not always a reliable indicator of hypothyroidism, but recurrent eye infections, especially when paired with other symptoms on this list, may indicate the disease at work.
6. Reduced Tolerance for Cold Weather
If there’s a change in your dog’s tolerance for cold weather, it could mean their metabolism isn’t functioning properly, which might be an indication that hypothyroidism is at play. Shivering, a reluctance to go outside, or a slow heart rate in cold weather can all be indications of a malfunctioning endocrine system.