January is National Thyroid Awareness Month. So here at Anasazi Animal Clinic, we thought this would be a good time to help you with understanding hypothyroidism in dogs. It is a fairly common disease, but it is usually very treatable.

What Does the Thyroid Do?

The thyroid is an endocrine gland located in your dog’s neck near the trachea. It produces several important hormones, including thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). The thyroid controls your dog’s metabolic rate.

What is Hypothyroidism?

In the case of hypothyroidism, the thyroid is underactive, meaning it is not secreting enough of these hormones. This causes the metabolic rate to slow down. Metabolic rate controls much more than just weight. It affects every system in your dog’s body.

Symptoms include:

  • Weight gain without an increase in appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Exercise intolerance
  • Cold intolerance
  • Dry, dull hair with excessive shedding and flaking
  • Thinning coat and failure to regrow hair after clipping or shaving
  • Increased dark pigmentation in the skin
  • Increased susceptibility and occurrence of skin and ear infections
  • High blood cholesterol
  • Slow heart rate
  • Anemia

What Causes It?

Ninety-five percent of hypothyroidism in dogs is caused by direct destruction of the gland. This destruction is usually the result of either lymphocytic thyroiditis (an immune condition where the body attacks the thyroid) or idiopathic atrophy (where the thyroid tissue is replaced by fat tissue). Other, rarer causes of hypothyroidism include cancer and congenital defects.

Dogs are more likely than other domestic animals to get hypothyroidism. Medium/large dog breeds are more likely to develop it than smaller breeds. It usually occurs in dogs between the ages of four and ten.

What is the Treatment?

Hypothyroidism is usually very treatable, though it is usually not curable. Your dog will likely need to be on a medication called thyroxine for the rest of his or her life. This is a thyroid hormone replacement therapy that mimics the action of your dog’s own thyroid hormones. It should take a month or two after starting the medication to see results.

Understanding hypothyroidism in dogs can be overwhelming if you think yours might be suffering from this condition. But the good news is, with the proper medication your furry companion can most likely be back to him/herself in no time. If you think your dog might have hypothyroidism, be sure to schedule an appointment with us at Anasazi Animal Clinic in Gilbert as soon as possible!



Images used under creative commons license – commercial use (1/11/2019) Pixaby