Hypothyroidism is a disease that can affect many different breeds of dog. However, it is very common in Golden Retrievers, Irish Setters, and Dobermans. In fact, 1 in 4 Golden Retrievers is affected by hypothyroidism! This makes learning about hypothyroidism imperative to being a good Golden owner. Let’s take a look at what hypothyroidism is, what the symptoms are, conventional treatment for hypothyroidism, natural treatment options, and how to prevent hypothyroidism.
What Is Hypothyroidism?
First, let’s address the thyroid. The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland on the front of the neck. It produces hormones that help control the metabolism, as well as, assist in other body functions. Metabolism helps the body turn food into fuel which is essential for all body functions.
So, in a dog with hypothyroidism, his thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough hormones. This causes major issues in the body, especially to the metabolism. Actually, weight gain is one of the main symptoms of hypothyroidism.
Hypothyroidism is often caused by an auto-immune response. Basically, the immune system is triggered to attack the thyroid gland. The immune system thinks that the thyroid is a foreign invader, damaging the thyroid gland. This immune response is triggered by an outside force.
There are a few other things that cause hypothyroidism. These can be shrinking of the thyroid gland, cancer, or a tumor on the gland. These are rarer but can still cause hypothyroidism.
Symptoms Of Hypothyroidism
It is helpful to know what the symptoms of hypothyroidism are. Note that many of these symptoms only show when 70% or more of the thyroid has been destroyed.
The first, telltale signs include behavior changes like increased aggression, reactivity, anxiety depression, and phobias. These symptoms often appear at the start of thyroid damage. If you can catch hypothyroidism at this early stage you may be able to actually stop the progression of the disease and help the body heal the thyroid. Thus, avoiding a lifetime on medication.
Later symptoms include:
- Reduced ability to handle cold
- Excess shedding
- Reduced activity, sluggishness
- Loss of or thinning of the coat
- Dull coat
- Ear, skin, nail infections
- Drooping facial muscles
- Skin is dry and flaky, but not red or itchy
- Weight gain despite decreased appetite
- Muscle loss
- Slower heart rate
- Brain fog
- Diehrea or constipation
Conventional Treatment For Hypothyroidism
If you believe that your dog may have hypothyroidism be sure to ask your vet to do more than just a T4 test. This test checks the levels of only one of the thyroid hormones, T4. A T4 test will not show the entire picture. Indeed, T4 can often look fine but the dog still has thyroid issues.
Instead, ask your vet for a full thyroid antibody profile. This will include T3, T4, Free T3, Free T4, and TgAA. These are all important thyroid hormones. This will offer you a much more complete picture of thyroid health.
If your vet discovers that your Golden has hypothyroidism they will likely prescribe a synthetic hormone replacement. This is an oral medication. You will typically give this to your dog twice a day until your dog’s coat returns to normal. After that, you may be able to move to giving your dog the medication once a day. But he will need to be on hormone replacement for the rest of his life.
The hormone replacement given to dogs is often T4 which your dog’s body will need to convert to T3. However, some dogs will be unable to convert the T4 into T3. These dogs will need T3 hormone replacement.
Hormone replacement may take some tweaking to get right. The dog will be giving the replacement for about 2 weeks before they need blood work done. After bloodwork, the medication will be tweaked. The dog will have to continue to have regular bloodwork, once or twice a year, to see if the medication needs tweaking again.
Natural Treatment For Hypothyroidism
If the disease is caught early enough seek out the help of a homeopathic vet. They will be able to prescribe remedies that will save the thyroid and help restore it to full functionality. This is the best option and will help your Golden live a full life, free of synthetic hormones.
If the disease is not caught early there are other natural options that can replace conventional treatment and help your dog live a better life despite the disease. One such natural treatment is to use a natural glandular supplement instead of synthetic. This will be more bioavailable to your dog and have other nutrients that will support the thyroid. Making it a much better option for overall health.
Diet changes may also be helpful for your dog. Malnutrition blood work may help to discover any nutritional deficiencies. If these deficiencies are addressed it will help to restore overall health. Working with a holistic vet or pet dietitian may prove helpful in creating a diet that will best promote health in your Golden.
Working with a holistic vet to help your dog detox can be an excellent way to help the thyroid. As a bonus detoxing will also help the liver, kidneys, and all the body! Be sure to detox for heavy metals and go slowly.
You may want to work with a homeopathic vet to see if there are any remedies (like turmeric or curcumin) that can help alleviate some of his symptoms and bring deeper healing.
As with all things prevention is better than trying to put our fires. The same is true with hypothyroidism. If you have a Golden Retriever it is wise to take the prevention of hypothyroidism very seriously. Following the below preventive steps will prove quite helpful.
As we discussed earlier the thyroid is located on the throat, on the front of the neck. This means that if your dog loves to pull on the leash and his leash is attached to a collar, the collar is likely doing extensive damage to his thyroid. Any collar can cause damage but prong, choke, and shock collars are the worst. It is best if you can walk your Golden with his leash attached to a harness instead. If you need help with a dog how pulls a lot on leash, check out our article on How To Train Your Dog To Walk On Leash.
Did you know that having your Golden Retriever spay/neutered triples their risk of developing hypothyroidism? That is crazy! Not to mention early sterilization is linked with all sorts of other diseases like joint issues, hip dysplasia, abnormal bone growth, bone cancer, CCL tears, and some mental issues. Avoid sterilizing your pet if at all possible.
It is also imperative that you reduce your Goldens exposure to toxins. This could be in the form of indoor or outdoor chemicals, flea tick and heartworm preventatives, medications, and vaccination. Yearly repeat vaccinations are especially damaging. Opt for titer testing instead of vaccination. This will tell you if your dog has immunity to diseases or not. Most dogs have immunity for 7+ years after only one vaccination.
Mercury is often found in vaccines and in many saltwater fish. Mercury can cause damage to the thyroid. So, again it is a good idea to avoid over-vaccination and not feed your dog a regular diet of saltwater fish. If you do feed fish opt for small fish like anchovies, mackerel, and sardines as they contain less contaminates.
Consumption of fluoride can also lead to hypothyroidism. It is important to keep your pet safe from fluoride. Be sure to give your Golden fluoride-free water.
As stated above, detoxing can be part of a natural treatment protocol for helping a pet with hypothyroidism. So, why not regularly detox your pet? This can help to increase thyroid, liver, kidney, and total body function. Be sure to detox for heavy metals and other toxins.
Stress can affect every part of you and your dog’s lives. Stress can also play a part in the development of hypothyroidism. It’s important to take steps to reduce you and your dog’s stress levels. This will be beneficial to the health of both you and your dog.
Reducing EMF exposure is another helpful way to reduce a myriad of health issues including hypothyroidism. One simple way to reduce EMF exposure is to turn your wifi off at night. It is also wise to keep your phone and other devices at least 3 feet away from your dog. There are also EMF blocking tags that you can get for your dog.
Diet is an important part of all body functions including thyroid health. Feeding your Golden a raw, species-appropriate diet is a foundational piece to his health. Be sure to do your research to find or create a high-quality raw diet for your dog.
The diet should have plenty of vitamins A and D, zinc, selenium, iron, and iodine. These are all essential nutrients for proper thyroid health. Most are easily found in a raw diet. You may want to supplement iodine in the form of seaweeds or kelp.
Fermented foods like kefir, kimchi, and fermented broths are helpful for gut health. Gut health makes up about 70-80% of a dog’s immune system. So, if the gut is healthy, then the rest of the body will be healthier too. If the body is healthy this will enhance thyroid function and help protect the thyroid from damage.
It is also important to make sure that your Golden gets plenty of time to play outside. The exercise and being outside are both very good for the function of his body including his thyroid. Plus, if he gets to play with you that is even better!
Hypothyroidism is a disease of the thyroid that affects 1 in every 4 Golden Retrievers. This disease is often misdiagnosed or underdiagnosed so it is important to get a full thyroid antibody test done if you suspect your Golden has hypothyroidism.
Conventional treatment typically involves synthetic hormone replacement. However, there are several natural options that you can choose, including dietary changes and natural hormone replacement. These will be better for your dog longterm.
There is also a host of things that you can do to help prevent your Golden from developing hypothyroidism. Feeding a raw diet that has plenty of vitamins A and D, zinc, selenium, iron, fermented foods, and iodine is a good first step. It is also good to always walk your dog on a harness and never attach his leash to his collar.
Prevention can go a long way to helping your Golden live a life free from hypothyroidism.