What is the thyroid gland and what does it do?

It is a gland located in the neck that produces thyroid hormone. Thyroid hormone controls the body's metabolic rate.

What does it mean to be hypothyroid?

A pet is considered hypothyroid if the thyroid gland is not producing enough thyroid hormone. This can be caused by many factors including:

  • immune-mediated destruction of the thyroid gland (lymphoid thyroiditis)
  • idiopathic thyroid atrophy (a complicated way of saying an unknown cause)
  • dietary causes
  • other causes

Which dogs are likely to be hypothyroid?

Some breeds, such as Golden Retrievers, are prone to hypothyroidism, although any breed of dog can get this disease. Hypothyroidism usually occurs in adult dogs, over the age of 4, although large or giant breeds may develop this earlier.

What happens to a dog with hypothyroidism?

Hypothyroidism affects many organ systems, and it can be a difficult disease to diagnose based on symptoms alone. Typically hypothyroid dogs are overweight and less active. Some affected dogs may even suffer from recurrent skin, ear or urinary tract infections, hair loss or behavior changes.

How will I know if my dog is hypothyroid?

A physical exam, careful questioning and a blood test may allow us to detect hypothyroidism in its early stages, well before obvious symptoms develop. In some cases, further confirmatory tests are necessary. Once a dog is diagnosed with the disease, they are started on daily medication and we re-evaluate thyroid levels regularly by testing the blood to monitor the response to therapy.

Can we treat hypothyroidism?

Yes! All it takes is daily administration of a pill to make up for the deficiency in thyroid hormone. The pill is easy to administer (tasteless) and inexpensive. Once treated, hypothyroid dogs generally have increased energy within a few weeks. Skin problems also resolve and dogs shed those extra pounds they have accumulated. It is important to note that hypothyroid dogs require medication for life, and routine blood work.