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The thyroid gland is a small organ in the neck, which produces a hormone called thyroxine. This hormone is involved in regulating your dog’s metabolism, and affects most organs of the body in some way.
Hypothyroidism is, as the name suggests, a condition where the thyroid gland isn’t producing enough thyroxine, so the body systems slow down. The result is a range of symptoms including lethargy, depression, obesity and a loss of interest in activities that are usually enjoyable. Affected dogs also have changes in their skin and coat, including hair loss and dry scaly skin, and they are usually much more sensitive to cold. Many affected dogs have a very characteristic “hang dog ” appearance, which is a hint that they are suffering from hypothyroidism.
There are several causes of hypothyroidism in dogs: inflammation, cancer and medication can be responsible, but in some cases, there is no obvious cause.
This condition has a very slow onset, so the appearance of symptoms is gradual, and easily missed by a dog’s owner. Not only that, but the symptoms of hypothyroidism also occur with other medical conditions, so working out the cause of your dog’s problems isn’t always straightforward.
Blood tests can measure the amount of thyroid hormone in your dog’s blood, and confirm the diagnosis. Thyroxine is available in tablet form, so you can replace their missing hormone with medication, and their metabolism will return to normal. Your veterinarian will recommend blood tests on a regular basis to make sure that your dog’s thyroid hormone levels are kept at the right level. You will need to give them thyroxine tablets for the rest of their life.
When your dog is on the right amount of thyroid hormone medication and their metabolism is back to normal, you can then start to tackle the other health problems that come with this condition. Diet and exercise can help with obesity, and there are treatments available which will help to improve their skin and coat.
In Summary – Hypothyroidism is a manageable disease, and when treated, dogs can enjoy life as much as they always did.
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