November 10, 2009

Hypothyroid condition refers to the inability of the thyroid gland to produce sufficient thyroid hormone. The thyroid becomes less active than it should be, and symptoms such as weight gain and lethargy as well as problems of the skin and coat, arise. Thyroid condition is possibly the most common auto-immune disease to affect our dogs. It is thought to be caused by environmental factors, such as the consumption of highly processed, poor quality commercial dog foods, over vaccination.

Certain breeds are more prone to the disease. Rottweilers, Labradors (chocolate especially), and Golden Retrievers are especially prone, and some veterinarians report a rate of 80% of tthese breeds being diagnosed with the condition. Other breeds that are commonly affected with hypo-thyroid include Boxers, Cocker Spaniels, Akitas, Chows and Dobermans. While a large percent of dogs have the condition hypothyroid, a similar percentage of cats suffer from hyperthyroid (an opposite condition). Researchers are trying to pin point the cause of thyroid condition in pets, and commercially processed dog foods is a big culprit.

The hormones of the thyroid have an effect on every cell in the body at a metabolic rate. The thyroid gland is responsible for regulating metabolism, so some of the clinical signs of Hypothyroid condition include lethargy, weight gain, dry and brittle coat, or an excessively oily coat with a heavy ‘dog smell’ (even right after a bath). Some dogs are chilly and seek heat or have neurological changes (sudden aggression, seizures). Some dogs exhibit no typical clinical symptoms and the diagnosis of other health issues will eventually lead to discovery of an underlying thyroid problem.

Hypothyroid condition is not an easy one for veterinarians to definitively diagnose, although the telltale symptoms are easy to spot for many vets, and diagnosis can be complicated by the fact that blood level standards for a diagnosis have changed over the last several years as well.

Iodine is a mineral that’s vital for thyroid health. A great source of natural iodine is seaweed or kelp (as well as many shellfish). Supplementing the diet with a small amount of kelp is usually recommended by holistic veterinarians for animals diagnosed with or at risk of a thyroid imbalance. Supplementation with glandular extracts is also very helpful, as is the use of adaptogenic (traditional Chinese and and Ayurvedic) herbs such as Ginseng and Astragalus.

An invaluable resource for many pet parents in the diagnosis of thyroid problems (and many other underlying health concerns) is Dr. Jean Dodd, who is is an expert in the field of canine blood analysis and specializes in autoimmune conditions. She is world renowned for her work in this field, as well as in the ongoing Rabies Challenge study. Dr. Dodd is the founder of Hemopet, a service that allows you to have your pet’s blood-work analyzed, to assist with diagnosing underlying conditions that are detectable because of high or low levels in the blood chemistry.