Monday, August 27, 2012

Hypothyroidism - Like mother, like dog-ter

Bella has "sub-clinical hypothyroidism". When Dr. Dodman told us that this condition could be contributing to her aggression towards Jan, I nodded in understanding. Not that I also feel aggressive towards Jan, but you see, hu-mom has hypothyroidism, too, and can clearly empathize with how it can lead to making one feel pretty cranky a good bit of the time.

Among the human symptoms are fatigue, sleepiness, cold sensitivity, constipation, dry skin, memory loss, weight gain, muscle aches and pain, stiffness of the joints and depression. Sounds like fun, doesn't it?

Now, imagine if you were a dog and couldn't tell anyone you felt this way?

I know I look sad and pathetic but it's not really about hypothryroidism.
You just can't see the bone I'm being so good about "leaving". 

But first, let's rewind a few weeks.

When Bella first attacked Jan, we immediately set up an appointment with our vet to rule out any physical causes for her bad behavior. Of course, she was a perfect, if shut-down, angel during the physical examination and according to our vets, her blood-work came back "perfectly normal". According to our vets.

Don't get me wrong, I like our vets. But vets have a lot of information they need to keep track of and may not always be the most up-to-date on every condition out there. However, having dealt with the condition myself, and experienced first-hand how shifts in diagnostic ranges can impact and influence treatment, I was curious to see Bella's actual results.

When I saw that her "T4" (the main thyroid hormone) came in at 1.1 on a "normal" range of 1.0 - 4.0, I actually turned to Jan and said, "I think she's hypothyroid".

Seriously, can I eat this now?
Actually, she's sub-clinically hypothyroid.

Her levels are low but not below the diagnostic range. According to Dr. Dodman, this condition is a behavioral affliction in and of itself. Dogs with this condition "may become anxious or fearful, become more aggressive... may also appear hyperactive". Hmmm. Sound like anyone you know and love?

Dr. Dodman believes that dogs who are sub-clinically hypothyroid can benefit from a low-dose of synthetic hormone. Their T4 levels and behavior are monitored over time to check for improvements. The first re-check was 6 weeks after we put Bella on the medication and her levels jumped up right into the middle of the healthy range and have remained there ever since.

She's been on a very low dose of the medication for a year now and many of her other 'symptoms' have faded in that time including her itchy, flaky skin and dry brittle coat. I don't think Bella's ever going to have a normal constitution but overall, that has improved as well.

Oooooh my gawd, shut up and let me eat already!
Score one for the humans.

While I consider everything we've done a contributing factor to Bella's overall well-being, this was an easy win and we'll take it. The moral of the story to me is: never stop questioning. If someone tells you your dog is okay but you think they're not, seek a second opinion. You are your dog's best advocate.

I know there's at least one other Bella out there in Blog-land who suffers from hypothyroidism. Is anyone else dealing with it, too? Do you have any advice you'd like to share? We are always interested in hearing your stories and tips.

For more information about hypothyroidism and behavior problems in dogs, see Dr. Dodman's Assessment of Hypothyroidism as a Factor in Behavior Problems.

Snoopy's Dog Blog


  1. I'm glad she was properly diagnosed!


  2. That is great that she is responding to the medication! I had Sherman's thyroid tested a few years ago when him and Leroy were not getting along. His thyroid levels were right where they should be! Guess it was just male hormones! 

  3. Bella is lucky to have you! Sometimes you really need to be the advocate for your dog and dig a little bit deeper. I'm glad she is feeling better. 

    I just love all of those images of her! 

  4. So glad you caught on that! So important. I truly believe that most behavioral issues to have physiological root. I do agree that a) the normal range is extremely broad and non-specific b) either end of the range is a food for thought.

    Dr. Dodds at Hemopet does specialized thyroid testing and provides detailed analysis and recommendation with the results.

  5. I'm glad you found out that it was hypothyroidism and you make a great point to never stop questioning if you think there is something wrong with your dog (and yourself).

  6. Rufus was hypothyroid. The only sign we saw was him sleeping ALL that time. As you say, he wouldn't have been able to tell us if he was depressed. He had bad legs from a very young age so everyone, including our good vet, thought he was just not walking and exercising because his legs were hurting. It took a holistic vet to diagnose him, which she did in the very first visit. For the life of me, I can't remember what she did, probably gave us some pills. Whatever it was, he perked up within A FEW DAYS. It was a miracle and we pretty much got our dog back for a few more years.

    I love the pictures of Bella and the captions. Too funny! X

  7. Ty's been on medication for hypothyroid for years. As he's gotten older, his levels have fluctuated and we've needed to adjust his meds. I always know when something needs to change based on Ty's attitude (he get crankier) or his weight (he get heavier). You're absolutely right - we know our dogs best and are their only advocates. Listening to your intuition is key.

  8. This is a very good lesson that ranges of normal are just a tool and that sometimes you need to look at things a bit deeper. It sounds like diagnosing hypothyroidism was an important tool in your management.

    My husband takes thyroid medication as well. I haven't noticed he's a whole lot less cranky. But at least he hasn't bitten me yet (although if he saw this comment, he might). :)

  9. Gus has low level hypothyroidism.  The number was close to the normal range but our vet suggested we try the meds for his behavior (we saw no other symptoms). 

  10. My Copper had that.  He's since passed away - last year before Christmas.  But man, it took the vet about a year to diagnose him.  I had no idea such a thing even existed so I was pretty clueless.  I could not figure out why his coat was so thin, he had "rat tail" and was forever going into the vet for out of control skin lesions.  Plus - he was overweight despite my feeding him healthy dog food in small amounts.  My vet apologized all over the place once he realized what was actually going on.  This was about 9 years ago so I don't think any of his symptoms were a red flag for hypothyroidism at that time.  So now, I am more educated about dog disease and when things "just don't seem right" with my current dog, Blueberry.  Thankfully, she's pretty healthy other than her hip displaysia and mild allergies.

    Good for you for being an advocate for your dog so she could be properly diagnosed and treated.  I wish I had gotten a second opinion for Copper instead of having him into the vet every month for a year.  But I simply didn't know better.  

  11. Hmmm Delilah has thyroid and takes medication for it.  They test her blood once a year and the dosage has never changed.  Do you think that's a problem?

  12. By the way, I really love the yawn photo!

  13. We are SOOOO happy that she has a great vet who diagnosed her properly and knows what to do to help.  Go Humans!!

    Shelle, Milo, Dixie and Newby,

  14. How amazing fortunate that you caught it. I think must hu-moms and hu-dads would not have known to question (which I guess is the point of your piece!) it. :)

    I think asking questions is always a good idea. I am finding that asking lots of questions is sometimes annoying to the vet, but also a relief to the pet parents. Kudos to you for asking and identifying an issue that helped Bella so much. BTW - Love the Bella pics. Those eyes!

  15. Love the pictures, Bella really is a beauty! What a good girl! Very glad that you knew enough to help w. her diagnosis.

  16. That sounds troublesome.  We hope you feel good all the time from now on.  And hey, CUTE pics!

  17. Good for pushing and finding an answer. My first dog tested in the normal range too, but it was low normal and she was showing some symptoms of hypothyroid. Luckily, my vet went along with me when I asked to put her on a low dose of thryoxine. It made a world of difference. 

    Each dog is an individual and it's important that everything be taken into consideration. I think vet behaviorists are way ahead of the curve on doing that because they see more of how these "little" things make a big difference in the dog. 

  18. Glad you were able to get treatment for her. Leah has low-normal thyroid also, and was showing signs of fear aggression. One of my trainers suggested she get tested after evaluating her, and while the soloxine wasn't a cure for her behavioral issues, I did see a noticeable improvement in her behavior, and her dry coat also cleared up, and her nails stopped being so brittle - unexpected, but welcome perks.

  19. Well I think I'm okay, but I seriously think Mum needs to get herself checked out...... Deccy x

  20. This is a perfect example of why you need to trust your instincts and know your dog! I have a friend who also has sub-clinical hypothyroidism and they never would have diagnosed it, if she hadn't noticed her pups T4#s decreased. Her vets brushed it off as "nothing important", but with the help of Dr. Jean Dodds at Hemopet, they've made great strides.

  21. Aww poor Bella. So many issues! You guys are resilient. I may need to ask about this test for Desmond. You never know, and I still feel like we're not quite getting anywhere. It's hard to keep your patience.