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Canine Hypothyroidism: 5 Things You Should Know

By Maureen Ryan. June 15, 2012 | See Comments

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Canine Hypothyroidism: 5 Things You Should Know

Hypothyroidism can be tricky to detect. Here are five facts we think you should know about canine hypothyroidism.

Like many medical disorders, hypothyroidism can be scary and complicated. Whether you’re wondering if your pet has hypothyroidism or you’re currently trying to manage your dog’s symptoms, knowing the essential facts about the disease can help you to not feel overwhelmed. Specifically, keep in mind these five facts about canine hypothyroidism.

1. Symptoms May be Mistaken for Signs of Aging

Classic signs of hypothyroidism usually become obvious when the dog is around 4 to 6 years of age, and it is possible to overlook these symptoms because they’re similar to normal signs of aging. If you start to notice changes in your dog’s physical appearance such as thinning fur, a dull coat, and skin discoloration or changes in your pet’s behavior such as lethargy and intolerance of cold bring these to your veterinarian’s attention. He can arrange for blood tests that will confirm whether or not your dog might need to be treated for hypothyroidism.

2. Hypothyroidism Can Be Hard to Diagnose

If your vet thinks that physical signs such as excessive shedding and lethargy are not due to other conditions, he may order a screening for the thyroid hormone thyroxine (T4). Normal levels of T4 usually rule out hypothyroidism, but a variety of factors could cause low T4 levels so further screenings need to be done to determine levels for other thyroid hormones. Your vet will also likely measure your dog’s cholesterol level. Interpreting the blood tests accurately is important since hypothyroidism treatments can be dangerous to dogs that don’t have the condition

3. Hypothyroidism Can’t Be Cured, but It Can Be Managed

With hypothyroidism, dogs’ thyroids become so damaged that they can no longer produce or secrete enough of the hormones they need. Nothing can be done to fix the thyroid gland and make it function well again. However, your veterinarian can prescribe synthetic hormones to be taken orally by your pet every day. This will regulate your dog’s system and reverse common symptoms such as fur loss. Your dog will need to take these medications indefinitely to compensate for the ongoing hormone deficiency.

4. Monitoring Hypothyroidism Is Crucial

Don’t think that your job is done because your vet hands you a prescription that seems to work and resolve your dog’s symptoms. In truth, your vet will need to evaluate your dog’s hormone levels regularly. Dogs usually have to visit their vet monthly in the first year or so of treatment but may change to once or twice a year as the synthetic hormones help control symptoms.

You and your vet should also watch for signs of hyperthyroidism, which can result if too much thyroid hormone is given to your pet. Problems that may indicate your dog has hyperthyroidism include: weight loss, vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity, hypertension, excessive thirst, excessive urination, or difficulty breathing.

5. Any Dog Could Be at Risk

Medium and large breeds such as golden retrievers, Doberman pinschers, and Irish setters are most likely to develop hypothyroidism, but it can occur in every breed as well as mixed breeds, so don’t assume that your dog is “safe.” Since the cause of hypothyroidism is usually genetic, investigate your dog’s lineage. If hypothyroidism affected previous generations, you should consider having your dog tested for the disease.

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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