by Cate Burnette, RVT
A disease associated with middle-aged, female dogs, hypothyroidism results from a lack of production of the hormones thyroxine and triiodothyronine (T3) by the thyroid gland in the animal’s neck. These hormones regulate how the body makes proteins, uses energy, and how sensitive it is to other hormones. The disorder is usually caused either by inflammation or shrinkage of the thyroid gland.
While this endocrine disorder can be found in all dogs, the breeds most commonly affected include the Dachshund, the cocker spaniel, the golden retriever, Irish setter, Shetland sheepdog, and others.
Animals with hypothyroidism typically show considerable weight gain over time and may appear lethargic or unwilling to move. Other signs include dull hair coat, loss or thinning of hair, excessive shedding, and an inability to tolerate the cold. Some will have a thickening of the skin and increased skin pigment in areas of friction. Hypothyroid dogs have frequent ear and skin infections, resulting in severe itching and sores on the body from scratching. Other signs of hypothyroidism include a slow heart rate, an absence of heat cycles, and other non-specific symptoms that could be due to other diseases.
Left untreated, hypothyroid dogs can develop chronic constipation, anemia, corneal ulcers and other optical complications. High cholesterol levels, stroke, and heart disease can also be associated with hypothyroidism.
Prevention and Veterinary Treatment
While there is no known way to prevent the disease, animals with hypothyroidism benefit from life-long supplementation of the thyroid hormone in pill form and regular veterinary check-ups.
One of the best ways to combat the itchy, flaky skin and dull hair coat associated with hypothyroidism is to feed your dog extra vitamins in her normal meal by supplementing with foods high in the nutrients she needs.
Broccoli, baked sweet potatoes, carrots, fresh herbs, and green, leafy vegetables such as spinach or kale are high in the Vitamins C, A, and E that your dog needs to reduce itching and flaking, dry skin, and promote skin healing of scratches and sores. Niacin – also called Vitamin B3 – can be found in white chicken meat, wheat bran, anchovies and tuna, and calf or chicken liver. This nutrient has been found to promote new hair growth while strengthening the hair shafts of the coat already in place.
Bathing your dog in all-natural, FDA-approved organic shampoo containing colloidal oatmeal (oat solids in suspension) can relieve the inflammation and incessant scratching connected to this hormonal disorder. An organic, targeted anti-itch spray can direct its healing power of neem, oat extract, litchi, and aloe directly to your pup’s problem areas to bring immediate itch relief and promote healing.
Because veterinary treatment with synthetic hormones can take up to 6 weeks to work, its in your pup’s best interest to relieve some of her skin problems naturally while the medication takes effect.