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Common Illness in Dogs – Hypothyroidism

02/03/2012 by Colleen Williams
February 3rd, 2012 by Colleen Williams

This condition is caused by a deficiency of a hormone produced by the thyroid gland. This hormone affects your dog’s metabolism – the biochemical process that changes food into energy. Hypothyroidism is not curable, but it is easily manageable. With loving, patient care from a pet parent, a dog diagnosed with hypothyroidism can lead a long, happy life.



There is no virus, bacteria, or parasite that causes hypothyroidism. There are several factors that increase a dog’s risk of developing the disease:

  • Age. Dogs between the ages of four and ten are at a higher risk.
  • Size. If your pet is mid-sized to large, their chances of developing hypothyroidism are heightened.
  • Breed. Some breeds of dogs have been proven to be more likely to acquire the illness, such as Doberman pinschers, Irish setters, golden retrievers, great Danes, dachshunds, miniature schnauzers, boxers, poodles, and cocker spaniels.
  • Gender. Male and female dogs that have been neutered/spayed have been shown to develop hypothyroidism more often.
  • Genetics. In some cases, hypothyroidism can be traced through generations and passed down to offspring.
  • Other illnesses. Thyroid cancer, iodine deficiencies, and post-surgery complications can also contribute to a dog’s chances of contracting hypothyroidism.


There are many outward signs of hypothyroidism; most are either behavioral or affect the animal’s skin and fur. Lethargy and inactivity, weakness, and mental dullness are the most common. When these are coupled with excessive hair loss and shedding, a dry/dull coat, and scaly skin, the diagnosis is most often hypothyroidism. Sudden, unexplained weight gain is the most distinctive symptom.

Diagnosis and Treatment

A thorough physical exam will be performed and a detailed medical history will need to be provided, including onset of symptoms. Diagnostic tests, including blood work, a urinalysis, and several on hormone levels will be run.

Since hypothyroidism cannot be cured, only managed, your dog will need loving care for the rest of their life. Your veterinarian will prescribe medications that contain synthetic thyroid hormones to fill your dog’s deficiency. A diet plan may also be constructed to promote weight loss or prevent obesity; animals with hypothyroidism often find their weight fluctuates quite frequently.


Stick to the medication and diet regimen your vet constructed; never change anything unless directed by your veterinarian. It doesn’t take long for your pooch to return to their old ways.


Hypothyroidism is a condition that inhibits your dog’s ability to produce a hormone that controls their metabolism. This can lead to symptoms like obesity and decreased mental function. If you see any of the signs of hypothyroidism, make an appointment with your vet; these can also be indicative of other illnesses. The condition can be easily managed, but it does take life-long care from loving pet parents.