WHY low thyroid hormone is increasingly common in dogs and people: symptoms, diagnosis, dietary correction of potential cause or hormone replacement therapy.
HYPOTHYROIDISM IN DOGS
A COMMON DIETARY CAUSE CAN CREATE THYROID PROBLEMS
Ingestion of bromine and an iodine-deficient diet adversely impacts the thyroid gland, causing serious health problems, including cancer, in people and pets.
Learn why modern-day dietary changes cause or contribute to thyroid hormone imbalance. People and pets are living longer in 2018 than in the previous two centuries but they are NOT as vigorously healthy.
Symptoms of Canine Hypothyroidism
Easily noted symptoms of low thyroid are weight gain, poor coat, and lethargy. Those visible symptoms progress to more notable inattentiveness, heat seeking, hair and/or skin problems and often, outright obesity. If the patient has suffered with low thyroid hormone for some time, there may also be thickening of the skin and hair loss.
Any combination of these thyroid hormone imbalance symptoms call for a simple blood test diagnoses to confirm radical dietary changes or the more common solution, hormone replacement therapy for you or your dog. At this point in the progression of diminished thyroid gland function dietary changes may not be sufficient, although they are recommended.
Untreated, people and pets may also exhibit any or all of these classic signs of low thyroid hormone: increasing 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 good friend in England (now a board member of the Kennel Club of England and a prominent international judge) had never heard of thyroid problems back in the early eighties when it was becoming common here. I followed along as she feed meat to her own dogs and the hundred-plus dogs in her quarantine station. She supplemented the locally harvested meat with wheat-based “kibble” formulated specifically to balance a high meat diet. Gradually though, the Brits, including my friend, 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 three decades.
The point is that for centuries, domesticated dogs ate hormone and chemical free meat and table scraps. There was no grain-based dog food. Humans ate fish, wild game, fresh fruits and vegetables. Neither humans nor dogs suffered from the immune disorders so rampant now. Today we eat frozen, dried, preserved or canned food... Then came ii bromine - in commercially produced bread, cereal, and dog food.
Iodine Deficiency Hypothyroidism
In the 1920s, as fewer people baked (and consumption of fresh fish consumption dropped), iodine was added to “store bought” bread and salt. One slice of bread contained about 150 micrograms of iodine, the RDA amount. Then the food industry decided to replace iodine with ii bromine, something that belongs to a pretty scary group of elements in modern life including fluorine and chlorine.
Bromine adversely impacts 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 then "sea salt" came into popularity and it contains no iodine! If you doubt that, check the label. By all means, add a small amount of iodinized salt when preparing fresh meat or vegetables. Salt will NOT "cure" thyroid disease and be aware that excessive salt can cause other problems.
Help Protect Your Dog From Low Thyroid Levels
This Shetland Sheepdog (Sheltie) is in excellent heath as represented by his full glorious coat and alert demeanor. Dull, listless, thin hair coat, if combined with weight gain and behavioral changes can be a sure sign of low thyroid hormone. Knowing that stress can contribute to low thyroid function, many professional handlers put a new client dog on thyroid hormone supplements to prevent such symptoms but this is considered unwise.
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 kind of 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. Is it coincidence that the critter highest in taurine is a mouse? No… Cat food manufacturers hastened to add taurine, thus solving the low thyroid mystery and saving millions of cats.
Thyroid Hormone Medication
Do not take your dog off thyroid medication without talking to your veterinarian 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 under the name Heparin.
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.
Many breeders suggest supplementation with fish (mackerel, herring, etc.) because it is high in natural iodine, and for the same reason, some use kelp. Also ask if thyroid supplementation can permanently depress thyroid gland function.
Can Hypothyroidism Be Genetic?
Not in the same way we inherit hair or coat color. However, 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 light bulb. We had always added canned fish, fresh raw meat and supplemented with kelp!
Excerpts from ShowSight Magazine, 2008 ~ Learn About Congenital Hypothyroidism with Goiter by John Fyfe, DVM, Ph.D
NOTE: "Congenital hypothyroidism is a relatively common endocrine disorder of human infants, resulting in mandatory testing of neonates. In contrast, reports of congenital hypothyroidism in dogs and cats are relatively few.". Deborah S. Greco, Small Animal Pediatrics, 2011
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