The hormones produced by the thyroid gland play a major role in your dog's metabolism. As a dog ages, however, their production of the thyroid hormone can gradually drop. On one level, this means that your dog may have less tolerance to cold because of the reduced function of the thyroid gland. On a more serious level, if the thyroid is producing a less-than-adequate amount of thyroid hormone (known as thyroxine), it can result in a condition known as hypothyroidism.
Symptoms of hypothyroidism
How do you know if your dog is experiencing hypothyroidism? Unfortunately, the symptoms of this condition aren't always obvious and tend to occur gradually. What's more, many of the classic symptoms (which include lethargy, obesity, and reduced exercise tolerance) are often chalked up to being a normal part of a dog's aging process. Other symptoms, like decreased mental sharpness and personality changes, are other clues that your dog may be experiencing hypothyroidism.
There are some visible symptoms of hypothyroidism, usually related to the skin:
- Thinning hair
- Poor healing of wounds
- Delayed hair regrowth after clipping
- Chronic skin infections
- Frequent ear infections
Hypothyroidism can also cause weight gain and affect the neuromuscular system, leading to weakness, occasional gastrointestinal problems, and gait abnormalities (for example, dragging of the feet when walking).
The good news is, treating hypothyroidism is safe and easy, though it must be maintained for the rest of the dog's life. A vet will most likely prescribe a thyroid hormone supplement. With appropriate treatment, the prognosis for a dog with hypothyroidism is excellent.
Proper diagnosis and regular vet visits are a must
Taking your dog for regular check-ups every six months will enable your veterinarian to identify the symptoms of hypothyroidism and prevent any further discomfort for your dog. Though your dog may not be showing any symptoms of disease at home, hypothyroidism can be diagnosed by physical examination and confirmed by a simple blood test. Getting your dog the appropriate treatment can help him live a longer and more active life.