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Jenna Stregowski, RVT

Hypothyroidism in Dogs

By January 17, 2013

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If you asked me to list some of the most common canine diseases, hypothyroidism would be towards the top of my list. Hypothyroidism is an endocrine disease that is characterized by a deficiency of thyroid hormones, basically an under-active thyroid. Frequently occurring in both dogs and humans, hypothyroidism causes a decreased metabolic rate and can lead to a multitude of systemic complications. Humans with hypothyroidism tend to experience extreme fatigue, unexplained weight gain, changes in skin and hair, and mood fluctuations. With dogs, the symptoms are not much different. However, it may be harder for us humans to detect subtle changes in our dogs since they can be such pros at hiding illness.

Fortunately, hypothyroidism is one disease that can be managed. There is no cure, so treatment is for life. However, the majority of dogs respond very well to treatment and live normal lives. Could your dog be hypothyroid? Learn more about canine hypothyroidism to help you become a better advocate for your dog's health. After all, you are his voice at the vet.

Comments

January 17, 2013 at 7:43 pm
(1) Merrick says:

Hi Jenna,

Thanks for bringing this to the attention of our fellow dog owners. My dog Frida is 12 and a couple of years ago she gained an extra 7lbs (give or take) and some people would say that she looked a bit heavy. Our prior vet said she was on the cusp of being a bit overweight but was fine. Thing is, she is not a “treat” dog — in other words, she does not eat everything offered to her, and never things that aren’t almost pure meat, and most treats aren’t. So it did seem a little strange that she would gain weight, but I left it to her being a senior and her metabolism slowing down.

I was wrong.

But, not only that, for some reason, that prior vet didn’t even think to suggest that it might have been hypothyroidism and never gave the test, and I certainly wasn’t aware of it.

Eventually I switched vets and the new vet suggested the T4 test and, whaddyaknow — she has hypothyroidism. We got her on thyroid medication back in June 2012 and within a couple of months you could see the difference! The pill works wonders — and now she is just a brand-new dog — perfect body weight, perfect thyroid levels, and lots of energy that she had lost a few years ago, it’s almost as if she regressed, in a positive way, to 5yo — again, she’s now 12yo.

To me, the thyroid meds are a miracle — of course, they are simply replacing the depletion of the body’s natural hormones.

So, if your dog has unexpectedly gone up in weight, and you don’t over-treat her/him, you might want to request a T4 test from your vet. And hypothyroidism is a condition that most pet health insurance companies will cover, so if your dog has the condition, the blood test and the medication may very well be covered, and even the exam (depending upon which insurance provider you have). My pet health insurance company, after the deductible, covers 100% after the deductible and that includes the monthly vials of medications.

(post continued in next comment)

January 17, 2013 at 7:44 pm
(2) Merrick says:

(continued from previous comment)

One last note on the thyroid medication: there are several brands, but two which seem to be the most used — Soloxine and Thyro-Tabs. Originally my vet used Thyro-Tabs, which are white and easily split in half. But then the hospital discovered that Soloxine is actually a bit better — the little purple pills are manufactured with more stability — in other words, when you break them in half they do so more crisply, and this means less granules are falling out the pill.

You might be thinking, “so what?” Well, how the pill is made is everything. When we switched from Thyro-Tabs to Soloxine, I gave my dog the exact same dosage — and it turned out to be an overdose. Although with thyroid medication, that is not a life-threatening circumstance, it made her nervous and she was panting heavily — the thyroid medication was overstimulating her system.

It turned out that the efficacy of the Thyro-Tabs was way below what it should have been — in fact, we had originally increased the dosage on the Thyro-Tabs because they weren’t bringing her T4 level to normal. With the Soloxine, we were able to bring her back to what was the original normal dosage and now it’s perfect.

Last thing I want to say is thank you Jenna for all of your About.com columns — they really are wonderful, have actual, legitimate, USEFUL information and are so helpful.

Suggestion: can you do a future column on pet health insurance? A lot of Americans aren’t even aware of it (vs. most Europeans) and it’s great. There is one About.com page on pet health insurance that someone wrote awhile back but it is very outdated, including one link where they combine the names of two different pet health insurance companies (Petplan and Veterinary Pet Insurance), which is inaccurate.

Thanks!

January 27, 2013 at 8:47 pm
(3) Susan says:

I have my dogs med’s filled at a Compound Pharmacy, the liquid is so much easier to give her and the fact that it can be flavored (sweet) is a guarantee that she takes the entire dose. Yes, it’s more expensive, but well worth it.

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