Hypothyroidism is the most common endocrine (hormonal) disease of dogs and is most commonly seen in middle-aged to older dogs. The average age of dogs with hypothyroidism is seven years of age. While any breed can be affected, increased incidence of hypothyroidism is seen in Labrador and Golden Retrievers, Shetland Sheepdogs, Great Danes, Irish Setters, Doberman Pinschers, and Old English Sheepdogs.
The cause of hypothyroidism is believed to be immunemedicated thyroiditis, caused by the dog’s body forming antibodies against its own thyroid gland. Idiopathic follicular atrophy, a condition of unknown cause where the thyroid gland follicles are lost and replaced by fat or connective tissue, is also seen in dogs with hypothyroidism. Rarely, thyroid cancer can also cause hypothyroidism.
Clinical signs classically seen in dogs with hypothyroidism include lethargy, weight gain, hair loss, seborrhea, and chronic skin infections (any dog with chronic skin infections or other skin disorders should be tested for hypothyroidism). Less commonly seen clinical signs in dogs with thyroid disease include neurological disorders (any kind of neurological disorder can be caused by hypothyroidism), infertility, behavioral disorders, heart disorders, and gastrointestinal disorders. Because hypothyroidism is so common in dogs and can cause any clinical signs thyroid testing should be a part of the normal clinical workup for any sick dog.
Principal Natural Treatments
Treatment for dogs with hypothyroidism involves the use of glandular thyroid supplement, with or without the use of synthetic medication.
Glandular therapy uses whole animal tissues or extracts of the thyroid gland. Current research supports this concept that the glandular supplements have specific activity and contain active substances that can exert physiologic effects. While skeptics question the ability of the digestive tract to absorb the large protein macromolecules found in glandular extracts, evidence exists this is possible. Therefore, these glandular macromolecules can be absorbed from the digestive tract into the circulatory system and may exert their biologic effects on their target tissues.
Several studies show that radiolabeled cells, when injected into the body, accumulate in their target tissues. The accumulation is more rapid by traumatized body organs or glands than healthy tissues, which may indicate an increased requirement for those ingredients contained in the glandular supplements.
In addition to targeting specific damaged organs and glands, supplementation with glandular supplements may also provide specific nutrients to the pet. For example, glands contain hormones in addition to a number of other chemical constituents. These low doses of crude hormones are suitable for any pet needing hormone replacement, but especially for those pets with mild disease or those who simply need gentle organ support.
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Shawn Messonnier, DVM
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Shawn Messonnier DVM Past Supporting Member, Oncology Association of Naturopathic Physicians Author, the award-winning The Natural Health Bible for Dogs & Cats, The Natural Vet’s Guide to Preventing and Treating Cancer in Dogs, and Breast Choices for the Best Chances: Your Breasts, Your Life, and How YOU Can Win The Battle!
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