Your Dog and the Thyroid Gland
The Thyroid Gland
The thyroid gland is a small gland located under the skin at the center of the neck. It is regulated by a smaller gland at the base of the brain, called the pituitary gland. This gland signals the thyroid to produce thyroid hormone and regulates its blood concentration. The thyroid gland is an intricate part of your dog’s endocrine system. It can have an effect on many different phases of your dog’s health, from your dog’s hair coat all the way to the cell function.
Hypothyroidism (“hypo” meaning less than normal) is the result of too little circulation thyroid hormone. This is normally caused by the thyroid gland ceasing to function properly. The most common cause of hypothyroidism is “Idiopathic Hypothyroidism” which means there is no biological reason why the thyroid glad is not working properly. Another cause of hypothyroidism is thyroid inflammation (thyoiditis) which can be familial (run in related dogs). Hypothyroidism can be a debilitating disease if not treated. However, with proper treatment, your dog can live a long and healthy life.
The clinical signs of hypothyroidism can be a loss of hair often on the tail, hind quarters or flank that is not a result of scratching. Other indications include dry scaly skin, dull brittle hair, bleaching of the hair coat and possibly the development of oily skin. Advanced cases of hypothyroidism may cause your dog to become lethargic and overweight, even on a limited diet. The animal many not want to exercise, may seek out warm places and may have cold clammy skin. Breeding dogs may have a lack of libido, prolonged anestrus or shortened estrus.
A blood test will be done to help confirm the diagnosis of hypothyrodism. When the blood test results are returned and the diagnosis of hypothyroidism is confirmed, your veterinarian will prescribe medication. The produced of choice is levothyroxine sodium tablets (Soloxine). This medication must be administered once or twice a day, according to your veterinarian's instruction.
You should see an improvement in your dog’s overall health in approximately two to four weeks. Changes in dogs coat will take anywhere from one to six months, depending on the rate of new hair growth of your dog.
In approximately four to six weeks, your veterinarian will require another blood sample. If the results warrant a change, the dosage may be adjusted to maintain proper thyroid blood levels. When the adjustment is made you will need to refill the prescription and administer the medication to your dog according to your veterinarian’s instructions. The thyroid medication and routine check-ups will be necessary to maintain a healthy and happy dog.