What can I do to help my hypothyroid dog?

Q: My dog’s thyroid levels detected from blood samples are low by half. My vet prescribed thyroxine, but I’m leery about continually giving my animal a medication if there is another way to up those levels naturally. Please advise.

A: Low blood thyroxine levels, or hypothyroidism, is a common condition in older dogs, dogs under stress, and in certain breeds of dogs. Fortunately, most cases of hypothyroidism are not considered serious. This condition is easily treated with levothyroxine, a synthetic form of the natural thyroid hormone. Daily medication is very safe, and often long term. The veterinarian follows cases of hypothyroidism by running periodic blood tests, modifying the levothyroxine dose as necessary. Many non-age related cases are able to eventually discontinue the medication entirely.

Since iodine is the precursor to thyroxine, iodine supplementation formerly was used as a natural method of thyroid gland function improvement. However, the high quality of commercial dog foods have almost eliminated iodine deficiency as a cause of canine hypothyroidism. Also, iodine is toxic when over supplemented. Therefore, you may hear of iodine used as a natural treatment, but only in outdated texts. The conventional, levothyroxine, although synthetic, is safe and effective, and the only current treatment.

My dog has a high T4. Does he have hyperthyroidism?

Q: My dog’s blood test showed a high T4 level. The vet said it could be the result of an infection or maybe a thyroid tumor and wants to retest in three to four weeks. Can you please give me some more information on this?

A: T4 is a measure of the thyroxin level in your dog’s blood. The thyroid gland produces this powerful hormone to regulate metabolic rate. A high level indicates the dog’s thyroid gland is over producing, which is rarely a problem in dogs (much more common in cats). The thyroid gland responds to the dog’s needs for increased metabolism by producing more hormone. Such needs include stress, infections, pregnancy, tumors, medications, and diseases. You should be alert to possible problems, and retest several weeks later. Most hyperthyroid conditions in dogs resolve without treatment. If the level is still high, then your dog will need to have further testing.

My dog has hypothyroidism. What can I expect?

Q: My vet has prescribed .9 mg of thyroxine two times a day for a low thyroid with my golden retriever. How does this relate to high cholesterol? Why would his gums be light pink instead of bright red?

A: Hypothyroidism is a common ailment of dogs. It can be temporary or long term. Debilitated dogs suffering from other diseases and injuries may have concurrent hypothyroidism which resolves once the initial illness is abated. Older dogs are prone to varying degrees of long term hypothyroidism. The treatment, merely supplementing the thyroid hormone completely solves the problem, as long as the dog remains on the medication. Since there is no cure for hypothyroidism, thyroid hormone supplementation is the only answer. Soloxine, levothyroxine and thyroxine are just different names for thyroid hormone. Long term thyroid hormone supplementation is completely safe and effective. Although thyroid hormone is a derivative of iodine, supplementing iodine beyond the natural low levels of iodine in normal foods can be very dangerous. Since the degree of hypothyroidism fluctuates during a dog’s life span, the thyroid levels should be checked once or twice a year with the dosage modified accordingly.