Graves Disease in Dogs

Graves disease is a rare condition that can deeply impact our canine companions. With being such an uncommon condition with complicated manifestations, this disease can be challenging to diagnose.

In this article we will discuss the details of Graves disease in our canine companions, and help you understand this complex condition going forward.

The Role of the Thyroid In Dogs

Graves disease is an autoimmune condition that involves the thyroid in dogs. Before we dive into the details of this condition in our furry friends, it’s important to first understand how important thyroid function is for a dog. A healthy thyroid gland is so essential in overall health, that it is often considered the thermostat of the body.

Graves Disease in Dogs

The thyroid gland in dogs is responsible for regulating the body’s metabolic rate. With producing T4 and other important hormones, the thyroid gland plays a vital role in metabolism and development of the canine body.

If the thyroid is overactive (hyperthyroidism) in dogs, this can increase their metabolic rate to a dangerous level. This means there will be an increased amount of thyroid hormones within the bloodstream, leading to a slew of complications and abnormal symptoms. While this is less common in dogs than cats, it is possible.

What Is Graves Disease in Dogs?

Graves disease in dogs is an autoimmune condition that can develop in dogs with hyperthyroidism. This condition involves the immune system reacting to high levels of thyroid hormones in the bloodstream, and producing antibodies as a result.

This process can attack the body and healthy immune system, leading to an array of complex symptoms. Graves disease is extremely rare in our canine friends, but can deeply impact those affected. While some experts believe this response is triggered by the presence of a bacterial or viral infection, the exact cause is still unknown.

Symptoms of Graves Disease In Dogs

The scattered symptoms of Graves disease in dogs is what makes it so challenging to diagnose. Just as hyperthyroidism can cause widespread systemic changes within our pups, Graves disease can as well.

Some of the symptoms of Graves disease in dogs include:

  • Increased thirst and urination
  • Increased appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Hyperactivity
  • Agitation
  • Lethargy
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Hair loss
  • Gastrointestinal upset
  • Changes in sleeping patterns
  • Tremors and neurological activity
  • Hypercalcemia

Due to the varying symptoms of this condition, it can be difficult to come to a set conclusion. Your veterinarian may need to test your dog’s hormone levels if they believe this could be what they have. They will also assess how many other abnormal symptoms are present outside of standard hyperthyroidism.

Treatment Options For Graves Disease

Treatment options for Graves disease in dogs can be a bit complicated. While there is no set treatment for this condition, there are ways to potentially manage the immune response and alleviate their symptoms. Just like many other autoimmune conditions in dogs, the ideal plan of action would be to suppress the immune response that is occurring.

In Graves disease in dogs, there are two issues that need to be addressed: the overactive thyroid gland and the intense immune response. This means that your veterinarian will likely approach the issue from two different angles.

If your dog is not already on thyroid medication, they may now prescribe a daily thyroid medication that will help to control the overactive thyroid gland. Your veterinarian may also put your dog on a daily immune suppressant such as steroids, though this can put them at risk to other health complications.

Severe cases of this condition may benefit from surgical excision of some of the thyroid gland. This is usually performed by a surgical specialist, and may require care from a specialty veterinarian going forward.

Prognosis of Graves Disease In Dogs

The prognosis of Graves disease in dogs will vary from pup to pup. Autoimmune responses will affect every dog in a different way, with some responding to treatment options more than others. As there is no set treatment for this condition, it is mainly about relieving a dog’s symptoms and making their life as comfortable as possible.

If your dog is diagnosed with Graves disease early on and is well managed with daily medication, their prognosis is good as long as you maintain a close relationship with your veterinarian. Dogs that go undiagnosed for long periods and are not well managed in their disease may experience a shortened lifespan because of it. It is impossible to give you a range of time your dog may have left without seeing test results and looking at their overall health.

The best way to offer your dog longevity in this condition is through early detection, keeping up with recommended check ups, and performing follow up diagnostics.

Final Thoughts

Graves disease in dogs is a rare condition that can cause a decline in their overall health. Early detection is important if you want your dog to live a longer, healthier and happier life. If you think your dog might have this condition then schedule an appointment with your local vet.

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