What is Hypothyroidism in Dogs and How Can It Be Treated?

If your dog is gaining weight and you aren’t sure why, or showing other outward symptoms that you can’t explain why, it could be related to a thyroid issue. The thyroid is a small butterfly-shaped organ that is located in the neck. It is responsible for metabolism function, in both humans and pets, and if it doesn’t function properly, it can cause a wide range of issues. Taking care of your pet’s health is important to a long, healthy and happy life, and having your dog’s symptoms checked out can mean the difference between a happy dog, and a dog who does not feel well on a daily basis. Some owners will not necessarily recognize certain symptoms as being thyroid related, which is why if you notice anything different about your dog’s normal routine and behavior, you should have your dog evaluated by his doctor.

What does the thyroid do?

The thyroid is linked with weight gain and weight loss. It secretes hormones right into the blood system that will determine how y our dog expends the body’s available energy. Metabolism is a body’s function of turning food to energy. When it comes to metabolic diseases, the thyroid is the most common cause of disease. It can either produce too much hormone, or not enough, and either way, your dog will experience health issues and symptoms, especially the longer the problem exists without proper treatment. Thyroid issues manifest in one of two ways: Low thyroid, or, underactive thyroid. And overactive thyroid, or the overproduction of thyroid hormones.


Hypothyroidism is the name given for an under-functioning thyroid. In this case, a dog’s thyroid is not releasing enough of the hormone known as thyroxine. If there isn’t enough hormone released, your dog’s metabolism is slow and his body won’t have adequate energy to burn calories, will not have the right amount of energy to use to help keep him active. This is why your dog may start to feel tired and have lack of energy to play and exercise, and eventually weight gain becomes a problem. The lack of energy to burn can lead to the inability to keep his body warm. Your dog might start to have trouble staying warm and develop a sensitivity to cold, which can be more problematic during colder months. The most common symptoms related to hypothyroidism include:

  • Tiredness
  • Sleeps a lot
  • Sensitivity to cold
  • Weight gain
  • Hair loss – especially around the tail, the sides, and the backs of the rear legs
  • Dry skin – especially in the armpit areas

If your dog shows signs of dry skin in different areas of his body, you might start to see a dark hue on the skin of the exposed area. You might be tempted to think the dry skin is related to allergies or some other cause, however, you will know it isn’t allergy related when you realize that there is no sign of scratching or redness, which is commonly seen if it is an allergy-induced dander.


Your doctor will run some blood work on your pet to check his thyroid function. There are also scans available to take a look at the thyroid directly. Once your veterinarian reviews the results, he will know if he is dealing with hypo, or hyperthyroidism. If it is determined that your dog has hypothyroidism, he will begin to treat the problem. The most common form of treatment is hormone replacement supplements. Your vet will prescribe the supplements that are meant to replace the hormone your dog’s body isn’t producing for him. He will monitor how he does on the supplements and adjust the dosage as necessary. Routine bloodwork is taken to monitor your dog’s level, and the need for any future supplement adjustments.

Thyroid supplements will be a part of the rest of your dog’s life. Although this is a very treatable issue, it is a lifelong issue that will always have to be monitored and treated. Like humans, dogs with hypothyroidism can go on to live a healthy and happy life, and symptoms like hair loss and dandruff or dry skin, will reverse after your pet’s body adjusts to his new supplements and his body starts reacting to having the higher levels of the hormone in his system.

If you ever notice any odd or new symptoms in your dog, it is always a good idea to have your dog evaluated, because even something as simple as dry skin or losing a little hair, could meant that something bigger and mores serious is going on.

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