Hypothyroidism is a relatively common hormone disorder in dogs as well as people. It is extremely uncommon in cats. One breed that seems over-represented when we see this disease is the Golden Labrador Retriever. In dogs there are a couple of mechanisms by which the disease occurs, however the most common one is mediated by their own immune system. The immune system in these dogs literally destroys their own thyroid tissue. As a result the gland can no longer create adequate levels of thyroid hormone. Since thyroid hormone is the master control hormone for the metabolism of the entire body (very much like the thermostat in your house) when it is present in really low levels the body metabolism is significantly slowed. This causes dogs to be lethargic, they seek heat (especially in the winter), often have poor haircoats and tend to become extremely obese. At least that is how it appears in the obvious cases. In less obvious cases hypothyroidism can mimic many other hormone-mediated diseases (we call it “The Great Imitator”) and it can be quite challenging to diagnose. Sometimes the only symptom is a dry coat, sometimes it is just a bit too much weight, symmetrical hair loss can occur, muscle weakness and a lack of exercise tolerance can also be the only symptoms.
The condition can be easily detected using a screening panel on a blood sample. It is also a condition that is very easily managed. Dogs that are hypothyroid are put on a source of thyroid hormone at a dose that restores the “normal” level of thyroid hormone to their system. Once on their treatment these dogs very quickly become more normal, both physically and mentally. This is one of those diseases where management is simple, easy, and has little to no impact on the life-expectancy of our patients.
If you would like some more information about hypothyroidism, pay a visit to Veterinary Partner