Have you ever considered thyroid disease in your pet? Would you know when to seuspect there might be a problem? Dr Maria Wilson, associate veterinarian at Country Friends Veterinary Clinic, provides a brief summary of signs, symptoms, and management of common thyroid diseases in dogs and cats. Note: Not all thyroid disease is described by the following information.

Cats are most likely to be affected by hyperthyroidism. “Hyper” indicates “eleveation/too much,” thyroid hormone. All species are equipped with a self regulating endocrine system which maintains a constant leve of thyroid hormones (T3, T4 and FT4). When this system goes awry, in hyperthyroidism the mechanism which tells the body to stop making thyroid hormones becomes blind to the amount of circulating thyroid hormone already available. The body then continues to produce an excess of thyroid hormones. This can lead to a variety of symptoms including, but not limited to, excessive loss of weight despite a good appetite, voracious appetite, increased thirst, diarrhea, and behavioral changes such as hyperactivity or aggression. The average onset of this disease is approximately 13 years, although it may be seen in middle aged to senior felines. Should you suspect your companion might be displaying these symptoms or other abnormal symptoms, a visit with a veterinarian is recommended. Once there, the doctor will likely discuss several possible explanations to your feline’s condition and want to run some bloodwork in order to give an accurate diagnosis. Once diagnosed, ongoing supplementation for the remainder of your feline’s life may be initiated. Periodic bloodwork will be required to maintain therapeutic levels and lessen any side effects or complications. Left untreated hyperthyroidism can lead to congestive heart failure, intractable diarrhea, kidney damage, blindness due to retinal detachment and even death. However, with treatment, the prognosis for life long management is good.

Dogs most typically are affected by hypothyroidism. “Hypo” meaning “decreased/too little” thyroid hormone. Hypothyroidism is the most common endocrinopathy in dogs, affecting approximately 1 in 530 dogs. Signs and symptoms seen in middle aged, medium to large breed dogs include, but are not limited to, lethargy, mental dullness, significant weight gaine, hair loss, poor hair coat, scaling, increased pigmentation of the skin, recurrent skin infections, decreased reproductivity and cold intolerance. As the disease progresses it may include symptons such as generalized weakness, incoordination, head tilt, facial paralysis, and seizures. Left untreated, hypothyroidism can be fatal. Diagnosis of hypothyroidism is also done with initial bloodwork. Once diagnosed, therapy may be initiated and the prognosis for life long management is good. Generally the attitude begins to improve within 1-2 weeks, skin within 1-4 months, and the reproductive changes follow soon after, alothough precise timeframes may vary from pet to pet.

Thyroid disease is one of the many diesases that may affect your beloved pet. The key to recognizing symptoms is knowledge and close observation. Many of the symptoms described avoe are vague, subtle symptoms that may best be observed by you, the owner. Dr Maria Wilson recommends that if you notice behavioral or pattern changes in you pet, please don’t hesitate to discuss your findings with your veterinarian. Your astute observation may in fact save your pet’s life!

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