In this month’s issue we will discuss a common condition seen in various dogs, known as ‘Hypothyroidism’. Before we dive into the details of when this condition may occur and methods of diagnosing and treating it, we first would like to discuss what it really is. As in humans, animals also contain a thyroid gland. This gland makes various hormones known as Thyroxine (T4) and Triiodothyronine (T3). These hormones play a major role in some of the physiologic effects that can be seen in your dog, such as increasing his or her metabolic rate; the amount of oxygen they consume; effects on their heart rate; aiding in producing red blood cells (erythropoiesis); effects on muscle and fat tissue; and many other functions. In Hypothyroidism, the thyroid gland does not produce enough of the thyroid hormones that it normally produces. Therefore, we see changes occur in our pet that can have detrimental consequences if not taken care of in time.
It is more common to see older dogs develop and be diagnosed with Hypothyroidism. It can also be a congenital, meaning your pet may have been born with this condition, however it is extremely rare. Some of the most common signs you will see in your dog with this condition are: weight gain, obesity, lethargy (feeling very tired) and alopecia (losing patches of fur in certain areas). You may also see your pet to experience pyoderma, which is a skin condition that displays small lesions filled with pus. If any of these signs are seen in your dog, it is highly recommended to consult with your local veterinarian to provide your furry companion with the best care possible.
When you present your dog to your veterinarian, he or she may wish to conduct a few tests to determine if there is Hypothyroidism. First, a full physical examination will be conducted as routine procedure. Blood work will be taken to assess the levels and abnormalities present. The preferred ‘screening test’, as the veterinarians call it, is known as the Serum Total T4 level test. Dogs with normal T4 levels are not hypothyroid. Yet, dogs with low T4 levels may be considered to be hypothyroid. However, a screening test is used to first determine whether the patient is a candidate for the condition or disease in question. If the answer is yes, then further testing is required to diagnostically prove that this is a hypothyroid patient.
Once your veterinarian has confirmed that your dog is indeed experiencing Hypothyroidism, an oral administration of a drug known as ‘Levothyroxine’ may be prescribed. Continued testing will be done before and during treatment in order to evaluate hormone levels and determine if there is improvement.