January is National Thyroid Awareness Month. Did you know that dogs and cats develop thyroid disease? Dogs commonly develop hypothyroid disease which is due to an underactive thyroid gland.
Hypothyroidism is a common condition in dogs but is rare in cats. The thyroid gland helps regulate the body’s metabolism. In hypothyroidism, the thyroid gland is not producing enough hormones, causing a wide variety of symptoms. Thyroid disease is more common in larger breed dogs between the ages of 4-10 years of age. Doberman Pinschers, Golden Retrievers, and Cocker Spaniels are predisposed to developing this problem.
Common symptoms of thyroid disease in dogs include lethargy, hair loss, obesity, cold intolerance, low heart rate and high cholesterol. There are several different blood tests that are used to diagnose hypothyroidism. However, it is important to note that other health issues and some medication can cause some of these tests to be lower than normal. Because of this some dogs are misdiagnosed and placed on supplementation when this is not needed. Most veterinarians will perform a screening test. If your dog’s thyroid is functioning normally this test will be in normal limits; however, if this test is low then a more specific test is required to verify if your dog’s thyroid function is low. A thyroid panel can also be performed which gives your veterinary both of these results and more.
Treatment for dogs with thyroid disease is very simple and inexpensive. They will require daily supplementation with synthetic hormones for the rest of their life. I recommend rechecking thyroid levels a month after starting supplementation and at least once a year to see if the medication needs to be adjusted.
Read more about thyroid disease in cats.