Hypothyroidism in German Shepherds is often ignored as many symptoms look similar to that of other diseases. German Shepherds are among the canine breeds more susceptible to this hormonal disorder. Unless treated early, hypothyroidism may lead to long-term complications.
Is hypothyroidism life threatening?
Hypothyroidism in German Shepherds is characterized by an underactive thyroid gland. Normally, the thyroid gland produces thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3) hormones. T3 and T4 are responsible for regulating the metabolism – the process of converting food into energy – in the body. Dogs aged between 4 and 10 years and those neutered are at an increasing risk. Though hypothyroidism is not life-threatening for your German Shepherd, it may make him vulnerable to serious diseases and disorders.
What causes hypothyroidism in German Shepherds?
The following causes may trigger hypothyroidism in German Shepherds.
- Thyroid gland tumor
- Shrinking thyroid gland
- Medications, particularly corticosteroids
- Immune system attacking the thyroid gland
- Lack of exercise
What are common signs of hypothyroidism in German Shepherds?
If your German Shepherds has any of the following symptoms, he may be suffering from hypothyroidism disorder.
Skin and fur problems
Hypothyroidism in German Shepherds often leads to dull and thin coat. Their fur may become dry and brittle. It also results in the shedding of the fur from your dog’s torso and tail. In some cases, the tail turns bald. The disorder may also darken your German Shepherd’s armpits and groin. One notable thing about hypothyroidism-related skin issues is that affected dogs do not really feel itchy.
Recurrent ear infections indicate hypothyroidism in your pet. Bacterial staph infections are the usual cause of ear infections that are related to underactive thyroid.
Eye infections do not necessarily indicate hypothyroidism in German Shepherds. But if your dog suffers from recurrent eye infections combined with other symptoms mentioned above, there is a good chance that the disorder may be there.
Lower cold weather tolerance
German Shepherds generally do well in the cold. However, if you find your dog unable to tolerate cold weather, he may have metabolism difficulties attributed to hypothyroidism.
Anemia is the only consistent abnormality of the blood that is found in hypothyroid dogs. Researchers have found that hypothyroidism can cause different types of anemia in humans, and it is believed that the same can happens to dogs.
Excessive sleepiness and lethargy are signs of many diseases. Senior dogs tend to be more sleepy than young puppies. If your typically energetic German Shepherd seems tired, sluggish, and “mentally slow,” he could be suffering from hypothyroidism.
Weight gain is the most obvious and common sign of hypothyroidism. Dogs with hypothyroidism tend to add on the pounds despite eating the same amount of food, as their metabolism slows down.
Aggression is often seen in hypothyroid dogs but the reason behind it remains a mystery. There is a theory suggesting that hypothyroidism affects a dog’s hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, which controls how the dog reacts to stress.
How is hypothyroidism in German Shepherds diagnosed?
Hypothyroidism is easily diagnosed with blood tests. Additional tests are also recommended if there are abnormalities seen in the initial tests or if your pet has epilepsy or heart problems. An X-ray is sometimes taken if the veterinarian suspects the presence of a tumor in the thyroid gland.
What are different types of hypothyroidism in German Shepherds?
This form of hypothyroidism seen in about 95% of all cases occurs due to the destruction of the pituitary gland. Conditions called lymphocytic thyroiditis and idiopathic atrophy are common causes of such type of hypothyroidism in German Shepherds.
Secondary hypothyroidism is rare. This form of hypothyroidism in German Shepherds happens when a tumor grows in the thyroid gland damaging the thyroid tissue. Malignant thyroid tumor can reduce the thyroid’s hormone production. However, thyroid cancer is very rare in dogs.
Other Forms of Hypothyroidism
The disorder is also caused by the destruction of the thyroid tissue and abnormal growth within the thyroid gland. Congenital hypothyroidism is rare in dogs.
How to treat hypothyroidism in German Shepherds?
Primary hypothyroidism is treatable using medications, such as levothyroxine or L-thyroxine. This drug helps maintain regular hormone levels that normalize your German Shepherd’s metabolism. Diet changes also work. You may provide iodine-rich diet, which prevents further injury to the thyroid gland of your dog. Daily exercise too assists in the metabolism process that suffers due to underactive thyroid.