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Understanding Hypothyroidism in Dogs: Causes and Treatments for Underactive Thyroid

Much like humans, dogs can suffer from two types of thyroid problems: hypothyroidism, where the dog doesn’t produce enough of the thyroid hormone thyroxine, and hyperthyroidism, where they produce too much.

Hypothyroidism in dogs – also called an underactive thyroid – affects energy levels, metabolism, and physical appearance.

What is the thyroid?

Found in the neck, the thyroid gland maintains your dog’s metabolism. When it’s working as it should, it releases hormones into the dog’s blood that help them use their available energy effectively and efficiently.

The technical bit…

Thyroid conditions are classed as diseases of the endocrine (hormonal) system. Hypothyroidism is caused when the thyroid gland in a dog’s neck doesn’t produce enough thyroxine – the thyroid hormone that controls the body’s metabolism.

Will my dog get hypothyroidism?

Canine hypothyroidism is most common in middle-aged dogs between the ages of four and ten. It usually affects medium-sized to large breeds such as the Golden Retriever, Dachshund, Cocker Spaniel, Doberman Pinscher, and Irish Setter.

Signs and symptoms of canine hypothyroidism

  • Unexplained weight gain
  • Lethargy and loss of energy
  • Hair loss or thinning
  • Dry, flaky skin
  • Darker patches of skin

The symptoms of canine hypothyroidism are similar to the symptoms of many other conditions. Your vet may recommend blood tests to make an accurate diagnosis.

Diagnosing and treating hypothyroidism in dogs

If your local vet suspects your dog has an underactive thyroid, he or she may recommend a simple blood test (and occasionally a scan of your dog’s throat) to confirm their diagnosis.

The bad news is that canine hypothyroidism isn’t curable; the good news is it’s easy to manage. Your vet may prescribe a synthetic hormone supplement to help control your dog’s thyroxine level. Most dogs respond well to this treatment, though they’ll need to take the medication for the rest of their life, and have regular check-ups with your vet.

Whatever treatment your vet recommends, he or she will always talk you through the options to put your mind at rest.

Need advice on hypothyroidism in dogs?

For expert advice and information on hypothyroidism in dogs, get in touch with your local vet.

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