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CANINE: Hypothyroidism

 

 Canine%20hypothyroidism

What is the thyroid gland and what does it do?

The thyroid gland is one of the most important glands in the body. It is located in the neck near the trachea or "windpipe" and has two lobes, one on each side of the trachea. The thyroid gland is controlled by the pituitary gland, which is located at the base of the brain.

 

"If the thyroid is overactive (hyperthyroidism), the body's metabolism is elevated. If it is underactive (hypothyroidism), the metabolism slows down."

 

The thyroid gland regulates the body's metabolic rate. If the thyroid is overactive (hyperthyroidism), the body's metabolism is elevated. If it is underactive (hypothyroidism), the metabolism slows down.

 

What causes hypothyroidism?

In the dog, hypothyroidism is usually caused by one of two diseases: lymphocytic thyroiditis or idiopathic thyroid gland atrophy. The former disease is the most common cause of hypothyroidism and is thought to be an immune-mediated disease. This means that the immune system decides that the thyroid is abnormal or foreign and attacks it. It is unclear why this occurs. In idiopathic thyroid gland atrophy, normal thyroid tissue is replaced by fat tissue. This condition is also poorly understood.

 

These two causes of hypothyroidism account for more than 95% of the cases in dogs. The other five percent are due to rare diseases, including cancer of the thyroid gland.

 

What are the clinical signs?

"When the metabolic rate slows down, virtually every organ in the body is affected." When the metabolic rate slows down, virtually every organ in the body is affected. Most dogs with hypothyroidism have one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Weight gain without an increase in appetite
  • Lethargy and lack of desire to exercise 
  • Cold intolerance (gets cold easily) 
  • Dry, dull hair with excessive shedding and flaking 
  • Very thin to nearly bald hair coat 
  • Increased dark pigmentation in the skin 
  • Increased susceptibility and occurrence of skin and ear infections 
  • Failure to re-grow hair after clipping or shaving 
  • High blood cholesterol
  • Slow heart rate

 

Some dogs also have other abnormalities such as:

  • Thickening of the facial skin so they have a "tragic facial expression" 
  • Abnormal function of nerves causing non-painful lameness, dragging of feet, lack of coordination, and a head tilt 
  • Loss of libido and infertility in intact males 
  • Lack of heat periods, infertility, and abortion in females 
  • Fat deposits in the corneas of the eyes 
  • Keratoconjunctivitis sicca (KCS) or "dry eye" due to lack of proper tear production  
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