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How Hypothyroidism Can Affect Your Dog's Skin

How Hypothyroidism Can Affect Your Dog's Skin

Dogs with hypothyroidism can experience a range of symptoms from skin problems to loss of energy. Today our North Asheville vets share some of the symptoms of hypothyroidism in dogs and how the condition is treated.

What is hypothyroidism in dogs?

Located in your dog's neck, the thyroid gland produces a hormone called thyroxine, which controls your pup's metabolism (the process of converting food into fuel). Health issues occur when the thyroid makes too much or too little thyroxine.

If your dog's thyroid produces insufficient amounts of thyroxine to properly regulate their metabolism, your pooch is suffering from a condition called hypothyroidism. 

In many cases, hypothyroidism in dogs is the result of an autoimmune disease which causes the dog’s immune system to begin attacking the thyroid gland. Why this happens remains unclear however this assault on the dog's thyroid typically results in the drop in production of the thyroid hormone, causing symptoms to appear.

While hypothyroidism is relatively common in middle-aged dogs (4 - 10 years old) and can affect any breed, medium to large breeds such as Irish setters, boxers, dachshunds, cocker spaniels, Doberman pinschers, and golden retrievers appear to have an increased risk of developing the disease. 

What are the symptoms of hypothyroidism?

If your dog is suffering from hypothyroidism you may notice one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Sores, scabs and
  • Recurring or chronic skin infections
  • Weight gain
  • Loss of muscle
  • Decreased heart rate
  • Toenail infections
  • Darkening of skin
  • Rough, dull coat
  • Thinning of fur
  • Dry, flaky skin
  • Black patches on skin
  • Excess scaling or shedding
  • Dandruff
  • Ear infections
  • Reduced energy levels
  • Reduced cold tolerance

A large number of dogs with hypothyroidism experience 'drooping' facial muscles due to nerve dysfunction, and in some cases, abnormally functioning muscles and nerves also lead to difficulties walking or generalized weakness.

Hair loss caused by hypothyroidism tends to be restricted to the dog's body (not head and legs), and you may notice your pup’s skin thicken and become darker where it rubs against itself. This is often seen in areas such as the armpit.

Another symptom of hypothyroidism in dogs is a dilated esophagus, which can result in regurgitation. Though not widespread, the condition is also linked to seizures, issues with blood vessels and heart, and infertility.

Although skin infections may initially require treatment, once your pet's thyroid medications are at the correct therapeutic level skin issues should resolve.

Needless to say, any combination of these symptoms is bound to make your dog very uncomfortable and veterinary care is essential to get your pup feeling well again. 

How is hypothyroidism in dogs diagnosed?

While hypothyroidism in dogs can result in multiple uncomfortable sympotoms, the condition isn’t life-threatening and tends to be relatively inexpensive to treat.

In order to confirm a diagnosis of hypothyroidism and get a firm understanding of your dog's hormone levels, your vet may complete a number of blood tests.

What is the treatment for hypothyroidism in dogs?

Treatment of hypothyroidism in dogs typically includes specific doses of the manmade hormone levothyroxine (L-thyroxine) to be taken orally on a daily basis for the duration of your dog's life.

Other therapies that may be recommended for your dog with hypothyroidism include low-dose natural hormone replacement, homeopathy and glandulars which may help the healing process, fermented foods, gluten-free natural foods, increased outdoor activity, and fluoride-free filtered water.

Do dogs with hypothyroidism need a special diet?

If your dog appears to have sensitivities to certain foods or substances your veterinarian will run tests to help identify the problematic ingredients and recommend the best food to feed your pup.

In some cases integrating a few natural fibrous nutrients such as green beans, carrot, cucumber, cooked broccoli, asparagus, lettuce, cooked spinach and mushrooms may also be recommended.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets.

If your dog is showing signs of hypothyroidism, contact us today. At Animal Hospital of North Asheville, our vets offer comprehensive veterinary care for pets, including diagnosis and treatment for dogs with hypothyroidism.

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