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Hypothyroidism in Dogs

Learn how to recognize the signs of thyroid disease in dogs.

Thyroid disease is a common disorder found in dogs and involves the thyroid gland failing to produce enough hormones. The thyroid gland controls the body's ability to metabolize food.

According to the Merck Veterinary Manual, hypothyroidism can affect any breed of dog, but it tends to be found most in dogs on the medium to large end of the spectrum and does not often affect smaller dogs. It generally seems to hit most dogs around middle age (approximately four- to ten-years-old) and affects male and female dogs equally, although there is a somewhat higher incidence among spayed compared to non-spayed females. Some of the breeds with a high incidence of hypothyroidism include:

Some of the symptoms of hypothyroidism to be on the lookout for are:

  • Lethargic and/or weak physical behavior, as well as mental lethargy
  • Sudden weight gain
  • Hair loss and/or an unhealthy change in the dog's coat appearance; hair loss tends to appear more on the back legs and tail area
  • An inability to handle cold weather and/or avoidance of the cold
  • Infections and/or allergic reactions on the dog's skin and/or scaling
  • Rare, though possible, symptoms include infertility, heart disease and seizures
Just as in humans with thyroid disorder, the treatment is actually quite simple. If your veterinarian diagnoses your dog with hypothyroidism, he or she will prescribe a synthetic version of a dog's natural thyroid hormone. Dogs with thyroid disorder most often must remain on the medication for the rest of their lives and should have regular veterinary checkups to ensure their dosage is working effectively. Your veterinarian may also prescribe a specific diet for your dog if they have gained weight due to the change in their metabolism. For more information on this common disorder, visit the Merck Veterinary Manual website and discuss with your veterinarian if you suspect your dog may be affected.


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