Filed in Dogs, Health

Hypothyroidism is a common hereditary disease in dogs. The thyroid gland is like a thermostat that controls the metabolism of cells throughout the body, including the skin and hair.

Often dogs that are hyperthyroid have dull, dry brittle hair coats, a slow metabolism, lethargy and fatigue. They tend to gain weight easily.

Hypothyroidism also may cause excessive shedding, hair loss in a symmetrical pattern, dry scaling dandruff, oily scaling dandruff, skin infections, and a "sad dog" look, with sleepy or droopy eyes and puffy skin that results in a tragic facial expression. The skin often becomes hyper-pigmentated so that it looks black.

Hypothyroidism also can present a wide variety of other symptoms, including a slow heart rate and depressed immune system. As a result, veterinarians sometimes call it "the great impersonator."

Your veterinarian can test your dog's thyroid. If there is a problem, thyroid medication can make a dramatic difference. In addition, medicated bathing, coat conditioning, and the addition of certain essential fatty acids to the diet are all very important for healing the hyperthyroid dog.

If laboratory tests indicate that your dog is hyperthyroid, medication given daily in appropriate doses often clears up the abnormalities caused by low thyroid function within about three months. A post-pill test four to six weeks after medication is started will determine if the proper dosage of the thyroid is being given.

Hyperthyroid dogs can live normal, active lives, but they must always stay on medication to compensate for their inability to produce proper levels of thyroid.

In addition to the medication, hyperthyroid dogs should have a healthful diet to provide the proper nutrients for the body to heal. Antibiotics often are prescribed to treat skin infections. Medicated bathing and coat conditioning are essential to remove the dead skin and falling hairs, and to keep new skin and hair healthy.

Source: Ask the Vet, reprinted with permission by Pet Food Express. Ask the Vet is published by Veterinarian's Best, Inc., PO Box 4459, Santa Barbara, CA, 93103.

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