HYPOTHYROIDISM IN DOGS
Misdiagnoses of low thyroid hormone results in coat, skin, allergy, reproductive, and behavioral problems because hypothyroidism weakens the immune system in dogs (and people) leading to serious health problems.
This Pekingese is in excellent heath as represented by his full glorious coat. Dull, listless, thin hair coat, if combined with behavioral changes can be a sure sign of low thyroid hormone.
Many professional handlers put the new dog on thyroid hormone supplements if symptoms are present. They then test the dog to confirm low thyroid hormone or any other contributing factors.
Symptoms of Canine Hypothyroidism
Poor hair coat, lethargy, inattentiveness, and weight gain lead the list of symptoms. If the dog has suffered with hypothyroidism for some time, there may be thickening of the skin.
But there are other symptoms and a dog may exhibit any or all of these classic signs of low thyroid hormone: intolerance to cold, frequent ear infections, behavioral changes such as unprovoked aggression, depression, obsessive behavior, even seizures.
Preventing Thyroid Imbalance
Okay so what to do about thyroid problems? In addition to complimentary and alternative medicine (CAM), there is plain old fashioned common sense. For instance, my friend in England had never heard of thyroid problems back in the early eighties when it was becoming common here. She fed meat to her own dogs and the hundred-plus dogs in her quarantine station. She supplemented with wheat-based “kibble” formulated specifically to balance a high meat diet. Gradually though, the Brits, including my friend, Chairperson of the TKC Breed Standards Committee and one of the most knowledgeable dog people I’ve ever known, were swayed by the marketing and convenience of “prepared” foods. Now they and their dogs, have the same thyroid problems we’ve experienced for over two decades.
The point is that for centuries, domesticated dogs ate hormone and chemical free, meat and table scraps. Neither humans nor dogs suffered from the immune disorders so rampant now.
Iodine Deficiency Hypothyroidism
About forty years ago, as fewer people baked, iodine was added to “store bought” bread. One slice contained about 150 micrograms of iodine, the RDA amount. Then the food industry decided to replace iodine with bromine, something that belongs to a pretty scary group of elements that include fluorine, chlorine, and of course, iodine.
But wait, bromine doesn’t help the thyroid gland, in fact, it inhibits iodine’s activity! When food producers stopped enriching grain products with iodine and replaced it with an element that doesn’t work, it spelled trouble for both people and dogs.
Iodine has been added to table salt to counteract deficiencies but most "sea salt" contains no iodine. Check labels. By all means, add a small amount of salt when preparing fresh meat or vegetables. Salt will NOT "cure" thyroid disease and excessive salt can cause other problems.
Okay so what can you do for your dog? I hear you long-time breeders shouting “kelp!” If you want to protect yourself and your dog, there are excellent kelp products. Brown and red seaweeds such as kombu contain the most iodine. Visit a health food store or an Asian market. It’s cheap, effective and comes in many convenient forms.
You could use Lugol’s solution, a nasty tasting iodine/iodide preparation that’s been around forever. Or you could use Iodoral, a dried Lugol’s solution that provides 12.5 mg of iodine/iodide.
Unused iodine will be excreted in the urine which by the way, is an excellent but little-used test for iodine deficiency. Note: If you have a dog with mammary cancer, be SURE to supplement. In one human trial, 100% of cancer patients tested iodine deficient!
Can Antibiotics Cause Hypothyroidism?
There are many factors that inhibit the production of thyroid hormone in mammals. The most common inhibitors are certain antibiotics which, while they may solve one problem, often create another. Before we and our dogs took so much medication and ate so little “real” food, thyroid imbalance was a negligible condition. Talk to your vet if the dog is on any prescription medication.
A more frequent cause of low thyroid output is fake food. The current “low carb” craze is good only if we replace white sugars and grains with something that has life and nutrients. The same science applies to the canine population, now largely fed corn and beet pulp, i.e. sugar.
Back in the eighties, I reported that cats were suddenly dying with previously unknown heart and thyroid problems until a researcher tumbled to the fact that cat food lacked taurine. It is coincidence that the critter highest in taurine is a mouse? No… Cat food manufacturers hastened to add taurine, solving that mystery and saving millions of cats.
Thyroid Hormone Medication
Do not take your dog off thyroid medication without talking to your vet but here’s the key. Whether vet or medical doctor, you may have to push for sound advice and not just accept the “standard” answer propagated by prescription drug manufacturers.
Here’s a classic example of getting a medical practitioner to put aside the indoctrination of prescribed drugs. Blood thinners are prescribed under many different pharmaceutical names but basically they are warfarin, i.e. rat poison! Coumadin received a “black box” label warning in Oct. 2006 but is still routinely used for chemo patients. Then on June 1, 2008, the FDA updated its report of deaths associated with Heparin use, adding 86 more deaths in the United States.
Vitamin “E” is a natural blood thinner with tremendously beneficial side effects rather than adverse side effects. When pinned down, most doctors will agree and remove the patient from warfarin-based prescriptions. As an aside, "E" research was pioneered by Dr. Wilfred E. Shute, a Canadian All Breed Judge... So, ask your vet if natural sources for iodine will work to boost thyroid hormone and the immune system. Also ask if thyroid supplementation can permanently depress thyroid gland function.
Can Hypothyroidism Be Genetic?
No, don't believe that. But DNA developed or altered by a century of ingesting certain foods or by chemical exposure can occur. Akitas, a Japanese breed genetically “programmed” to eat iodine-rich seafood, became so challenged on our western diet that thyroid problems were rampant. Estrus cycles became flakey and non-productive. Males suffered from low libido and/or sperm count and often became overly aggressive.
I wondered why my dogs weren’t affected but it took a visitor from Japan to turn on the lightbulb. We had always added fresh raw meat and supplemented with kelp!
Sooo, that’s my layman’s advise but discuss it with your vet or as we did when my husband was battling cancer, ask your doctor. I asked the Oncologist why he had prescribed coumadin when they inserted the porta-cath and told Bill to not take vitamins, particularly "E". He looked away, sighed and mumbled something about protocol, then said "Yes it will. He can take "E" and stop the prescription."
Excerpts from ShowSight Magazine, 2008