Could your dog have thyroid disease (autoimmune thyroiditis) and you don't even know it? Thyroid disease in dogs is a common problem but it is also one of the most misdiagnosed health issues among all breeds. That's because many of the common symptoms of thyroid problems may also be indicators of other problems. As such it is impossible to know if the thyroid gland is affected without comprehensive testing by your veterinarian.
The thyroid gland, located in your dog's neck, produces several crucial hormones, including one called thyroxine. These hormones act to regulate your dog's metabolism, much like a thermostat regulates your home's heating and air conditioning system. Without proper regulation, the entire system can get out of control causing a variety of serious, even life threatening, medical conditions.
The most common thyroid disease in dogs is Hypothyroidism. This occurs when the thyroid gland doesn't produce enough thyroxine, causing your dog's metabolism to slow. In most cases, Hypothyroidism is caused by destruction of the thyroid gland. While Hypothyroidism can affect any breed, it is more common among medium to large size breeds, particularly the Australian Shepherd. In fact, it is one of the most common health issues among Aussies.
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Thyroid disease is relatively common in Australian Shepherds and is often misdiagnosed.
Unfortunately, the main symptoms of Hypothyroidism are also common to a wide range of other illnesses and include:
If your dog begins exhibiting any of these symptoms you should take him to the vet for a proper diagnosis. Once Hypothyroidism is diagnosed it can be easily treated with the administration of thyroxine.
Hypothyroidism can also be a manifestation of another thyroid disease in dogs called Autoimmune Thyroiditis, in which the immune system attacks the thyroid gland. This is a condition very common among Australian Shepherds as well as other breeds including the Akita, Doberman Pinscher, Beagle and Golden Retriever. Since AT can actually be a symptom of another disorder, such as systemic lupus, it is important to get a thorough examination and diagnosis as quickly as possible.
Another more serious, though less common, thyroid disease is Hyperthyroidism. This occurs when the thyroid gland produces too much thyroxine, causing your dog's metabolic rate to rise to dangerous levels. Hyperthyroidism is usually caused by a type of cancer called thyroid carcinoma.
Common symptoms of hyperthyroidism include:
While Hyperthyroidism can be treated with chemotherapy, radiation and surgery, the long term prognosis is not good.
Enlargement of the thyroid gland can also occur without the presence of cancer. This is called a goiter and is sometimes caused by dietary imbalances, particularly a lack of iodine, though this is rare among dogs who are fed a high quality commercial diet. More often, goiters are a side effect of treatment with antibiotics and are not particularly serious though, like other thyroid disease in dogs, they should be properly diagnosed in order to be sure.
Since thyroid disease can be severely debilitating, it is important that you are aware of the potential symptoms and get your dog to the vet for a thorough exam and proper diagnosis as soon as they occur. The sooner you can get to the heart of the issue, the better the chances of successfully treating it and hopefully allowing your dog to live a long, healthy, and happy life.
For more information about Thyroid Disease in Australian Shepherds see the Australian Shepherd Health & Genetics Institute (ASHGI).
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