Dealing with My Dog’s Thyroid Disease: The Vet Says I’m Living on Borrowed Time

Dogster Health Editor Julia Szabo is invested in keeping her dogs happy and healthy well into their senior years. Today, she shares tips for dogs diagnosed with an underactive thyroid.
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When my dog Sheba recently began displaying uncharacteristic lethargy, barely able to go out for short walks to the curb outside our building, I knew the culprit couldn’t be her osteoarthritis. After all, she’d just received a booster injection of her own stem cells, cultured by the brilliant team at Vet-Stem in San Diego, where my dog’s precious cells are kept in cold storage. A trip to the vet for a routine checkup and bloodwork confirmed my suspicion. Something else was indeed going on.

Thankfully, that something was fixable: Sheba’s thyroid wasn’t working properly.

In dogs as in humans, the thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped gland located in the lower part of the neck. A gland’s function is to secrete hormones, and the hormones released by the thyroid deliver energy to all the body’s cells. In her advanced age — my sweet girl is now a grand lady of 16 — Sheba has developed hypothyroidism, which means that her thyroid is underactive. Typical symptoms are consistent with a slowdown in metabolism: fatigue, weight gain, and depression.

Incidentally, thyroid disease is not exclusive to seniors; hypothyroidism can manifest in young dogs (and human teenagers) as well. The respected veterinarian Jean Dodds, founder of HemoPet, recently write a book, The Canine Thyroid Epidemic (Dogwise Books), all about this sad medical phenomenon.

For human patients, doctors’ RX is a synthetic replacement called Synthroid. Chances are you know someone who’s on this medication (I know two: one is 82 and the other is only 16). The veterinary equivalent is called Soloxine, and is precisely what Dr. Rubinstein of the Humane Society of New York prescribed for Sheba: 0.3 milligrams, to be exact, to be administered twice a day. Fortunately, it’s a tiny pill, and despite its bright-blue hue, Sheba never even notices it mixed up with her food (which is already souped up with cinnamon, turmeric, Nordic Naturals Omega 3 Pet, honey, and coconut oil; among coconut oil’s many health benefits is that it helps promote normal thyroid function).

Of course, I’m always interested in natural ways to keep my pets at their peak of wellness (and keep them away from the vet’s office), so I began investigating alternatives. First, I added Pet Sun Chlorella to Sheba’s diet. This green-algae dietary supplement, the human form of which I also take when I need to detox, helps improve thyroid function, among other things. I’ve eliminated peanut butter from Sheba’s snacking repertoire, as avoiding peanuts is recommended for anyone with thyroid disease. And I’m very glad that I don’t drink — or serve my dogs — fluoridated New York City tap water unless it’s properly filtered; according to the National Resource Council, there is clear evidence that small amounts of fluoride, an insidious neurotoxin, at or near levels added to U.S. municipal water suppliespresent potential risks to the thyroid gland.

Next, I consulted with my brilliant friend Mary Shomon, nationally recognized patient advocate, bestselling author, and About.com columnist (follow her on Twitter). She has firsthand experience with thyroid disease, which is why she’s so passionate and knowledgeable; not only does she live with it, so does one of her beloved Bichons, Sammy. At the recommendation of her vet, Kitty Raichura of Veterinary Holistic Care in Bethesda, MD, Sammy takes Thytrophin, a glandular supplement formulated for humans.

So I called Dr. Raichura, who graciously consulted with me and recommended that I give Sheba Thytrophin too, to see if perhaps, after a period of taking this supplement, a blood test might reveal that the twice-daily Soloxine dosage could be safely lowered. That’s what she does with her own beloved Boxer; amazingly, at the tender age of 2, he already has hypothyroidism! But, the vet added solemnly, “You’re on borrowed time.”

Well, yes, that is harsh but true — to a point. Isn’t the reality that all of us, human and K9, are on borrowed time, whether we’re young or old, healthy or not-so? My philosophy is to live life to the fullest, right now. Take every chance.

Try and tell me that isn’t every dog’s philosophy too.

I’m happy to report that, after a few weeks of taking Soloxine, Sheba’s energy level is almost back to normal. Just the other day, she brought a smile to my face by happily scampering through our lobby as we headed to the park for a romp (see above video). Okay, so it wasn’t a high-speed romp — but it wasn’t super-slo-mo, either! I hope to see this trend continue, and I’ll be sure to report on Sheba’s progress after her next blood test.

Meanwhile, Dogsters, do you have a dog with thyroid disease? Please share coping tips in the comments!

10 thoughts on “Dealing with My Dog’s Thyroid Disease: The Vet Says I’m Living on Borrowed Time”

  1. Pingback: Coconut Oil for Dogs? 10 Reasons to Try It – Money Saving Pet Centre

  2. Have a 2 year old golden doodle who was just diagnosed with hypothyroidism he had black on his stomach and then started losing his hair. I was told at that point he was on the high end of the low scale. After a month on meds twice a day they retested and he was on the high end of the normal. The black was gone and hair starting to come back. Then the vet changed his dose to once a day and his hair started falling out again. I have now read that it is better for young dogs to be on the high end of normal so I was going to ask vet to change dose back. Is it normal to for it to take time to get it right for these poor dogs?

    1. Hi there Kathy,

      Thanks for reaching out! We are sorry to hear about what is happening with your dog. We suggest contacting your vet with this question. We hope your dog feels better!

    2. Unfortunately you will have to deal with testing their levels for the rest of their lives and changing dosages as your dog ages and their bodies change. My dog this past year has been recently diagnosed with Thyroid disease, turning 10 in November . He’s had over half a dozen thyroid blood tests and his levels are still far from normal (very below average ). But his case is abnormal in itself. I’ve had to change his dose four times in the last year and although he seems to be back to his normal for the most part , we can’t manage to get a dosage to rise his levels. He goes for another blood test in 6 weeks . He has has everything from full body x rays to full body ultrasounds all with not one thing wrong . Thyroid has been his biggest battle thus far. He baffled the doctors with his condition. If you notice your dog doesn’t seem right or his hair isn’t the same I suggest asking to up his dose or test his blood again to make sure his levels haven’t dropped to use the hair loss. My dog has always been on twice a day as are most dogs I see at my work ( I work at a veterinarian office , 10 years) but if his levels are normal or above, hair loss might be something you will just have to love him for 🙂 Well wishes for your fur baby.

  3. Helena O’Keeffe

    I have a Golden Retriever aged 5 – bloods not 100% consistent with Thyroid, he’s been on the meds 4 weeks now & i’m seeing v.little improvement but he is carrying alot of weight due to the problem – anyone have any suggestions or how fast do you see results in your dogs??

    Really cant afford to send him to a Consultant!!!

    1. Hi Helena,
      Here’s another article on thyroid issues with dogs:
      https://www.dogster.com/lifestyle/we-interview-dr-jean-dodds-expert-dog-thyroid-issues
      We suggest continuing to work with a vet. If you are struggling with vet bills, please check out these articles:
      https://www.dogster.com/dog-health-care/affordable-vet-care-for-your-dog
      https://www.dogster.com/dog-health-care/affordable-pet-care-for-dog-parents
      https://www.dogster.com/dog-health-care/need-help-with-vet-bills-ideas-that-anyone-can-do

  4. Pingback: Hypothyroidism in Dogs — Why Does It Happen and Can You Treat It? – Today’s Pet Products

  5. I have a six-year-old shitzu that has hyperthyroidism always had seizures ever since she was a puppy just recently I started giving her a teaspoon of coconut oil in her food every morning she hasn’t had a seizure in 2 months she usually has seizures once a week coconut oil makes a big difference

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