When thyroid levels are out of whack, the hormonal imbalance can cause changes to the whole body and canine hypothyroidism skin problems are some of the earliest signs of trouble in dogs. Dog owners may notice changes in the appearance of a dog's coat (hair loss) and skin issues. While changes in a dog's coat can be attributed to several other medical conditions in dogs, it's always a good idea to rule out thyroid problems. Following is a personal story of a dog suffering from hypothyroidism, where skin problems along with behavior changes were some of the first symptoms noticed.
Signs of Trouble
Meet Cadbury! He is my beloved Powderpuff Chinese Crested who now is 10 years old. He has been with me through thick and thin over the past nine years. It was four years ago when he gave me a scare with a health problem I had never encountered in one of my dogs before.
I remember when I started to notice that Cadbury was acting more tired than usual. His normal morning ritual was always to run around in circles with excitement until I would let him out and feed him breakfast. He had not done this for about a week. The look in his eyes told me that something was wrong.
He was also chewing and licking many parts on his body, his rear end, armpits and stomach. When I looked closer, he had small scabs on his stomach which appeared very uncomfortable. He had been chewing but it did not appear that the areas had been created merely by the chewing. In addition to the scabbed areas, I noticed discolored areas on his belly where his skin appeared dark purple to black in color.
One night, Cadbury was lying on the kitchen floor and I remember noticing how lethargic was. I would try to entice him into playing and he just looked at me. He had also turned away several meals which was very unusual for him. I knew something was wrong.
It was in the evening so we had to call the Emergency Vet Service. This was not our usual vet and he did not seem very worried over the phone but he did agree to meet us at his office. Once there I felt like he downplayed my concerns. He sent us home saying that he expected him to be back to normal in a few days. This did not seem right.
Coming to a Diagnosis
I made an appointment with our regular vet the next day. She did a thorough exam and ran labs on him. She suspected that Lyme disease could be the culprit. This was ruled out. The next day she called me with his lab results; Cadbury’s thyroid level was dangerously low; he was diagnosed with hypothyroidism. The vet suggested that we start him on synthetic thyroid hormone (levothyroxine) immediately. So we did.
Over the next few weeks Cadburys usual energy came back; he was playful and back to eating anything in site. His skin slowly healed, but the discolored areas did remain.
Hypothyroidism is a disease that we constantly need to monitor and treat in Cadbury. Once per year, or if his symptoms change; blood work is done to test his thyroid hormone levels. Over the past few years his dose of levothyroxine has been increased a couple times after receiving results of his blood work.
Symptoms of Low Thyroid Levels
When Cadbury's current dose of levothyroxine is not cutting it anymore, there are a few symptoms that I notice.
He becomes slightly lethargic. As he is getting older it is sometimes hard to tell if his energy level is decreasing with age or his thyroid levels are off. I suspect that both may be a factor at times.
His skin also becomes more sensitive;it dries out and the scabbed areas return. Over time his continues to have discolored areas on his skin, however they are usually not bothersome to him and are to be expected as he ages, so says our vet.
Help for Canine Hypothyroidism
Cadbury takes his thyroid replacement every 12 hours. He has learned to love his routine of the pills hidden in peanut butter before his breakfast and dinner. The vet also recommend putting him on a grain-free diet to help prevent any further skin issues that may be caused by allergies. The combination of medication and diet change has been successful for him. He continues to live a happy life full of treats and going for car rides. We do need to watch what he eats because the hypothyroidism puts him at increased risk of gaining weight. His breed is also known for overeating!
Trust Your Instincts!
One lesson that I learned from my experience years ago with Cadbury was to trust my instincts and trust my knowledge of my dog.
I knew that something was wrong and I am grateful that I followed up after seeing the emergency vet who did not think anything was wrong.
The take home message is that no one knows better than you about your own four legged best friend!