Hyperthyroidism In Dogs

Hyperthyroidism in dogs is a rare condition in dogs that can deeply impact their life. With the thyroid having such an important role in the canine body, a change in overall function can result in a number of concerning symptoms. So what does this diagnosis mean for your furry friend?

In this article we will discuss the details of hyperthyroidism in dogs, and help you better understand how it will impact your pup going forward.

The Role Of The Thyroid

Hyperthyroidism in dogs is a condition that impacts the thyroid’s ability to function. In understanding just how much this affects a dog, it’s important to be aware of just how important the thyroid gland is for our furry friends. The thyroid gland is such a staple in regulating a dog’s health, that it is often labeled as the thermostat of the body.

This gland is responsible for regulating the body’s metabolic rate in our canine friends. The thyroid gland produces T4 and other important hormones, and aids in maintaining a dog’s metabolism and proper development. When the thyroid gland is either overactive or lacking in its duties, this can lead to a slew of serious medical complications.

What Is Hyperthyroidism in Dogs

Hyperthyroidism in Dogs

Hyperthyroidism is much more rare in dogs than it is in cats, but it is still possible to diagnose in our pups. Hyperthyroidism is classified by the overproduction of thyroid hormones by the thyroid gland, causing an increase in metabolism within the body. When the thyroid gland is working in overdrive, the excessive hormone levels will begin to cause an array of abnormal symptoms.

Increased metabolism within the cells and the body can have a massive impact on the dog if it is not addressed. A high level of circulating thyroid hormones can lead to weight loss, fur loss, anxiety, gastrointestinal upset, and more. These symptoms can progress if the condition is left untreated, leading to a decreased quality of life for the affected canine.

Not only is hyperthyroidism rare in dogs, but it is usually very serious. Hyperthyroidism in dogs is often due to thyroid carcinomas, which is a type of cancer that affects the thyroid gland. These tumors will interfere with the normal function of the thyroid, leading to the overproduction of thyroxine (thyroid hormone). 

Hyperthyroidism can be present in dogs that are taking medications for hypothyroidism, as some dogs will begin to produce too many thyroid hormones. This is often corrected by approaching the doses and making some adjustments.

Lastly, hyperthyroidism can also be due to thyroid enlargement for any reason. This can be due to a genetic defect passed down from dog to dog, or even a dietary imbalance. While this is rare, it is possible. No matter the cause of a dog’s hyperthyroidism, it should always be taken seriously.

Signs & Symptoms Of Hyperthyroidism In Dogs

Due to the thyroid having so many important roles, canine hyperthyroid symptoms will often vary from dog to dog. The wide range of symptoms can make this condition hard to pinpoint, especially with it being rare in our canine friends. Some of the most common signs of hyperthyroidism in dogs include:

  • Weight loss
  • Enlarged thyroid gland
  • Increased appetite
  • Increased thirst
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Increased urination
  • Lackluster fur or fur loss
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Heart murmur
  • Changes in breathing
  • Behavioral changes
  • Hyperactivity
  • Poor body condition

If your dog is displaying any of the above symptoms, it’s best to contact your veterinarian for further care.

Diagnosing Hyperthyroidism In Dogs

If your veterinarian is concerned about hyperthyroidism in your dog, there are a few ways that they can to the bottom of it. While some veterinarians may be able to feel a dog’s enlarged lymph node if it is large enough, the only way to definitely diagnose it is through thyroid testing. A standard set of diagnostics will include a full chemical blood profile, a complete blood count, a T4 level test, as well as a urinalysis. A full panel of blood work can help to rule out other potential causes, and ensure that your dog’s thyroid is at the center of the issue.

In cases with cardiac and respiratory symptoms, your veterinarian will likely perform chest radiographs as well. This can help them rule out any evidence of cardiac and lung disease, as well as assess any damage to these organs. In cases involving abnormal or severe symptoms, the veterinarian may refer the pet to a specialist for further testing.

Treatment Options For Hyperthyroidism

Treatment options for dogs with hyperthyroidism will vary based on their specific situation. To help you better understand each possible scenario, let’s discuss each cause and how a veterinarian may treat the issue.

Hyperthyroidism as a result of medication for other thyroid disease can often be easily treated. This usually only requires an adjustment of medication doses, and can resolve soon after these changes are made. Your veterinarian may require follow up diagnostics to monitor their progress to ensure the change of dosage is working.

If the condition is just a result of an overactive thyroid gland without a tumor being present, your veterinarian may be able to manage the condition with prescription thyroid medication. These drugs can inhibit the production of thyroid hormones within the body, potentially resolving their symptoms in the process.

Unfortunately, if a dog’s hyperthyroidism is due to a tumor on the thyroid gland, aggressive care may be needed. The treatment will often vary based on how involved the tumor is, and if it has invaded other organ structures in the area. Based on how involved the tumor is, your vet can determine how much of the gland and tumor will need to be removed. Additionally, chemotherapy and radiation therapy can be used alongside surgery. If the thyroid gland needs to be removed completely, your veterinarian will need to discuss ongoing treatment for thyroid hormone replacement.

What To Expect If My Dog Has Hyperthyroidism

If your dog has just been diagnosed with hyperthyroidism, there are a few possible outcomes to expect. First, no matter which treatment avenue you travel down, you will need to establish a close relationship with your veterinarian. Thyroid levels will need to be monitored to ensure the effectiveness of their treatment plan, and may require bi-weekly to monthly testing until they are regulated. Some doses of thyroid medication will need to be adjusted, and this allows your vet to do so.

If your dog has had surgery to remove their thyroid gland, close monitoring is essential for their success. Not only will their healing process need to be closely monitored, but they will also need frequent blood work to test their thyroid levels in the months following their surgery. Your veterinarian will offer a detailed recovery plan for your furry friend, and determine the best care for them going forward.

If your dog is prescribed medication to manage their condition, you can expect to offer this medication until your veterinarian tells you otherwise. These drugs will often be prescribed for the rest of their life, and will require recheck blood work to stay on top of their thyroid levels.

Final Thoughts

While hyperthyroidism in dogs may be rare, there are treatment options available to your furry friend. Be sure to review the information that we discussed above, and you can better understand this condition going forward. 

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