What is hypothyroidism in dogs?
The thyroid gland is located near the top of your dog’s neck and produces a hormone called thyroxine, which controls the metabolism (the process of transforming food into fuel).
If the thyroid either becomes overactive (hyperthyroidism) or under-active (hypothyroidism), issues can occur and cause symptoms ranging from chronic or recurring skin infections to weight gain, lack of coordination and infertility - all of whicn can have significant negative impact on his or her quality of life.
When dogs suffer from hypothyroidism, this means that not enough thyroxine is being produced by the thyroid to allow the body to maintain a normal, healthy metabolism.
In dogs, one of two diseases most often cause hypothyroidism:
An immune-related disease is widely believed to be the most common cause of hypothyroidism in dogs. This would mean your dog’s immune system sees the thyroid as foreign or abnormal and starts to attack it. Though this condition is not well understood, genetics are believed to be a contributing factor.
Idiopathic Thyroid Gland Atrophy
This condition happens when the normal thyroid tissue in your dog’s body is replaced by fat tissue.
While hypothyroidism can impact any breed, it’s most often spotted in medium to large breeds such as golden retrievers, dachshunds, Irish setters, doberman pinschers and cocker spaniels, between 4 to 10 years of age. Spayed females and neutered males are also at increased risk to develop hypothyroidism, though the reason is unclear.
What are the most common signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism in dogs?
An insufficient amount of the thyroid hormone in the bloodstream sets off a number of changes in your pup’s body. Because thyroid hormones are responsible for maintaining a dog’s normal metabolism, a healthy immune system and normal tissue repair levels.
These are common symptoms of hypothyroidism in dogs:
- Darkening of skin
- Skin infections that do not clear up
- Inability to tolerate cold temperatures
- Scabs or sores on skin
- Recurring or repeated superficial skin infections
- Weight gain without increased appetite
- Ear infections
- Excess shedding or scaling
- Excessive dandruff
- Black patches on skin
- Decrease in physical activity
- Miscarriage or lack of heat periods in females
- Infertility in male dogs
- Drooping facial muscles
- Lack of coordination
- Dull or rough coat
- Fatty deposits in eyes
- Head tilt
- Itchy or flaky skin
- Thinning fur
- Toenail infections
As you can see, hypothyroidism in dogs can appear as a range of frustrating symptoms that by themselves or especially in combination, can be distressing to both you and your dog and reduce quality of life for your pet. Fortunately, these symptoms are treatable. See our next post for information on how your vet and diagnose and treat the condition.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet’s condition, please make an appointment with your vet.