Hypothyroidism is unfortunately very common, so there is a likelihood that some of you have a hypothyroid dog, or know someone who does. Hypothyroidism is a result of low circulating thyroid hormone, which lowers metabolism and affects almost every system in the body. The good news is that it is easily treated.

Levothyroxine is a safe, relatively inexpensive treatment but it does require a prescription and followup blood tests to make sure your dog is dosed properly.  This extra layer of caution is necessary because too much thyroid supplementation causes hyperthyroidism, which can be just as detrimental to your canine’s health.  If provided with the appropriate amount, you should notice a resumption of regular activity within a week of treatment and more gradual return to normal body weight, usually within six-eight weeks.  If your dog has lost hair due to low thyroid, hair regrowth can take up to several months.

Hypothyroid dogs tend to be overweight and have difficulty losing the weight.   I strongly recommend that you feed a weight-loss food that features quality protein sources and L-carnitine to help the body utilize fat.  Most diet foods have a low protein and fat content, which can leave hypothyroid dogs feeling even more lethargic.  On the other hand, a high-quality weight-loss food will increase vitality and improve skin and coat health.

Because dogs with autoimmune thyroid disease have generalized metabolic imbalances and impaired immunity, it is advisable to minimize their exposures to unnecessary toxins and chemicals, and to optimize their nutritional status with healthy balanced diets.  Wholesome nutrition is a key component of maintaining a healthy immune system, and nutritional influences can have a profound effect on thyroid metabolism.  Studies have shown that dogs susceptible to thyroid and other autoimmune diseases show generalized improvement in health and vigor when fed premium diets rich in anti-oxidants and anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids.

These dogs should avoid chemical preservatives such as BHA, BHT and ethoxyquin.  Chemical preservatives can impair the absorption of selenium from the gut, which is required for the body to produce thyroid hormone.  Only use foods that are preserved with natural anti-oxidants like vitamin C and tocopherols.

Remember – hypothyroidism is recognized as a genetic disorder that is exacerbated by external factors.  If you are considering adopting a puppy, request thyroid panels or thyroid antibody tests on the parents, or ask if the parents are currently on thyroid supplements.   This will let you know if the puppy is predisposed to developing the disease.

As with any dog, start early and follow the nutritional guidelines mentioned to maximize your canine’s wellness.