The Auburn University School of Pharmacy estimates 3 to 8 percent of the American human population have hypothyroidism, and the incidence increases with age. I was surprised by this number because when I conducted a poll among friends and acquaintances the percentage seemed higher. Everybody I asked seemed to be on thyroid medication. So I'm hoping the following story will be embraced by an empathetic audience.
Buddy is a 5-year-old male Chesapeake Bay retriever rescued by a Good Samaritan who came upon the original owner who was about to shoot and kill his dog. The Good Samaritan talked the trigger-happy owner into surrendering Buddy to him. He kept Buddy three months before realizing he couldn't provide Buddy the home he deserved.
So he brought Buddy to the Yavapai Humane Society (YHS) on Dec. 3. From day one, Buddy has been a model resident. He comes out of his kennel without coaxing; is leash trained, allows all handling; is social but independent; has no food issues; has a high tail and approaches other dogs with confidence; is good with kids and cats; and is obedience trained.
Buddy is the most popular dog at YHS. Everybody who meets him wants to adopt him - until they learn he has hypothyroidism.
YHS diagnosed Buddy's hypothyroidism after noticing his lethargy and poor coat. Hypothyroidism is a common disease in dogs and occurs when the thyroid gland produces insufficient hormones to regulate the metabolism. This causes a variety of symptoms including weight gain or obesity, hair loss and skin problems. Most hypothyroid dogs respond readily to treatment.
Buddy has been on treatment (a pill placed in his food morning and night) for five weeks, and his desire to play and be more active is palpable. His coat has improved, too. Many dogs suffer from a low thyroid hormone level for years without treatment. If your dog has recurrent skin problems or unexplained weight gain, she may be suffering from hypothyroidism and you should talk with your veterinarian.
Although the onset of clinical signs is variable, hypothyroidism most commonly develops in middle-aged dogs between the ages of 4 to 10 years. The disorder usually affects mid to large size breeds, and is rare in toy and miniature breeds. Breeds that appear predisposed to the condition include the Golden Retriever, Doberman Pinscher, Irish Setter, Miniature Schnauzer, Dachshund, Cocker Spaniel and Airedale Terrier. German Shepherds and mixed breeds appear to be at a reduced risk of contracting the disease.
Hypothyroidism in dogs is easy to treat with an inexpensive daily dose of a synthetic thyroid hormone called thyroxine (levothyroxine). The dose and frequency varies depending on the severity of the disease and the response of the dog to the drug. A dog is usually placed on a standard dose for his weight and blood samples are drawn periodically to check his response and the dose is adjusted accordingly. Once therapy is started, the dog will need to be on treatment for the rest of his life. Usually after the treatment is started, the majority of the symptoms resolve.
Buddy's improvement is obvious and he is ready to be adopted into an understanding and loving home. If you are interested in Buddy, come by the Yavapai Humane Society at 1625 Sundog Ranch Road in Prescott, off the Prescott Parkway, to get acquainted. Buddy is a senior dog so adoption fees are waived for citizens 59 years of age.
In celebration of YHS's 40th anniversary the adoption fee in February and March is $40 for most dogs and you can pick your price for most cats.
Ed Boks is the executive director of the Yavapai Humane Society. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 445-2666, ext. 21.