PetMeds® Diagnosing Hypothyroidism in Dogs

Symptoms of hypothyroidism may include lethargy, weight gain, dull dry hair coats, and predispositions to ear or skin infections to cold intolerance, digestive tract, joint or neurological dysfunction
Hypothyroidism or a low thyroid is the most common hormonal disease seen in any breed dog.  Symptoms of hypothyroidism can include lethargy, weight gain, dull dry hair coats, and predispositions to ear or skin infections to cold intolerance, digestive tract, joint or neurological dysfunction. Diagnosing hypothyroidism can be sometimes difficult and I usually rely on a complete thyroid blood panel to include a T4, Free T4, as well as thyroid and thyroglobulin autoantibodies.

Many veterinarians only run a T4, which often over diagnoses this condition, as many other diseases can lower T4 levels. Treatment of hypothyroidism involves given thyroid hormone replacement usually in the form of T4 known as levothyroxine or Soloxine name brand. Most dogs will get this drug twice daily at least initially, while some dogs can be maintained on once daily Soloxine after initial control is achieved.

Since dogs with hypothyroidism tend to gain weight, it is important to give these pets adequate daily exercise or walks. I have found iodine-rich supplements like kelp, as well as vitamin E and selenium can be helpful in regulating hypothyroid dogs.  When initially diagnosed, blood work is usually repeated in 4-6 weeks to make sure blood levels are adequate, and then once every 6-12 months after that, unless the clinical symptom picture changes.

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  1. I have a 2.year,10 month old golden retriever who has had recurrent bactierial ear infections. I took her to the vet who was concerned because her stomach area is dark in color and not the normal color. She has had 1 litter of pups. He put her on a hormone for hypothyroid and said to see if the hormone changes her coloring and takes care of her ear problems. She has had hot spots which he said was a pork allergy and she also had a staff infection under her arm, both of which were treated. Should I get a second opinion. he also said that blood tests do not always show up until the problem is severe. Thank you

  2. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianFebruary 28, 2013 at 11:26 pm

    Low thyroid is indeed common in this breed, however it may not be the cause of all of the problems. This breed is also prone to inhalent/contact allergies and/or food allergies. May be worthwhile consulting a vet dermatologist in your area for possibly allergy testing.

  3. My older Doberman Pinscher now going on 8 yrs was diagnosed with the T4 blood test in 2012 low thyroid .07. At 6 yrs (2011) he was diagnosed with wobblers and put on prednisone (quite heavy doses at first) for treatment and balanced off to 10 mg a day. With that said, he was neutered, and his weight went from 76lbs to 101lbs within 3 months. I grew concerned and consulted with a few different vets. No help for change. I decided his weight gains was going to kill him to death, so I started to reduce the preds and cut them in half daily dose, then every other day, and then every 3 days, until I consulted once more with a different vet who listened to my concerns. We put him on a cat nip dose 2.5 mgs every other day on preds to start to wean him off, and then into holistic care for his wobblers. He was then given the T4 test and came up low thyroid .07. Since then he is finally off all preds, and only taking soloxine 2 times a day. He is slowly losing the weight…slowly…down to 92lbs. He needs 10 more lbs IMO to go. He got another T4 test and came back normal. Vet wants a follow up to make sure and take test w/o meds taken before the test. I had my other Doberman puppy at 1 yr take his T4 test and came back low thyroid… .07 go figure a puppy? Took the other expensive test and sent to U of Michigan. Came back normal. I wonder now if my older adult Doberman test might have been a false reading? His only potential sign of thyroid would be an aggressive behavior towards a person. Such as a vet who stuck him with a needle and he didn’t like it and bit the vet for it. (yes, we now muzzle him when at vet office) Or someone chasing him or getting him unfocused and he feared harm and would act fear aggression behavior. So the diagnose was low thyroid can cause this behavior? His only issues are from the wobblers – unsteady walk (mild case compared to other dogs researched), arthritis joints when sleeping and getting up, once up and moving, he is fine. Luckily no dragging of paws when walking so his quality of life will be good as long as those holistic visits continue and boost his physical outlook. I would hope that my senior Doberman can adjust his thyroid meds to once a day once his weight loss is stable?

  4. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianJanuary 24, 2014 at 4:47 pm

    Some hypothyroid dogs can be adjusted down on their thyroid meds to once daily. As for the testing, the gold standard in diagnosis of thyroid disease in dogs, is the complete thyroid panel, to include Free T4, TSH, Thyroglobulin autoantibody test, etc which is one done at Michigan State

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