What You Need to Know About Thyroid Problems in Dogs


Thyroid problems can affect any dog. By: Geoff Stearns

There are many health conditions that can affect dogs, but thyroid problems are among the more common ailments.

Imagine your dog has started drinking water more often, going outside frequently to urinate, or starts eating more food yet loses weight. While these symptoms can be signs of quite a few disorders, it’s important to consider thyroid problems in dogs.

What Is a Thyroid?

The thyroid is a small gland in the throat. The hormones produced by this gland regulate several bodily processes, and changes in the amount of hormones produced can create endocrine conditions in dogs. You may be aware of these conditions because they also affect humans. I know this because they also affect me.

I was a teenager when the problems started. My heart rate would elevate, I would get hot often and it was difficult to stop my mind from racing — and a miracle if I ever slept through the night.

I kept attributing it to stress until one day when I became so hot that the air conditioning was at 50 degrees and I was still sweating. I knew something was wrong. After a few tests, the doctors found that my thyroid was producing hormones at a ridiculous rate — so high that I was whisked into surgery to remove the gland.

Much like my attributing the symptoms to stress or dismissing them for some other reason, dogs may hide their discomfort until the symptoms escalate. At the time, I didn’t know what was wrong with me, and you may not know what is wrong with your dog despite some changes.

There is no one definitive cause for thyroid problems, but there are some common symptoms.

Symptoms of Thyroid Conditions

Before we explain the symptoms of thyroid conditions, it’s important to know the two main types of thyroid problems, which may or may not be accompanied by cancerous growths called carcinomas. The two main types:

  1. Hyperthyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland is producing too much thyroid hormone.
  2. Hypothyroidism occurs when the gland is not producing enough hormones to sustain a normal level of activity.

Although many of the symptoms can indicate other conditions, as a dog owner you need to be aware of them. Thyroid conditions are more common in dogs age 5 and older, though they can affect any dog, regardless of sex.

Dog thyroid gland illustration

HYPOthyroidism: Thyroid Hormone Deficiency (Most Common)

  • Weight gain
  • Dry or sensitive skin, sores
  • Shedding or hair loss
  • Lethargy
  • Sensitivity to cold
  • Decreased heart rate
  • Weakness (muscle or overall)
  • Secondary infections (eye, ear)


Thyroid Tumors: Additional Symptoms if a Tumor Is Present

  • Coughing
  • Hoarseness
  • Noticeable change in bark
  • Round mass protruding from the throat area
  • Decreased appetite
HYPERthyroidism: Excess Hormones (Rare)

  • Weight loss
  • Increased appetite or eating fast
  • Frequent urination
  • Excessive thirst
  • Heart rate elevation
  • Vomiting/diarrhea
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Enlarged thyroid or bulge in the throat
  • Nausea
  • Hyper or overactive behavior, restlessness
  • Coat dullness

Some of these symptoms may appear immediately. Others, such as coat dullness, will build up over time. It’s important to know your pet’s routine and habits so you can identify a change. Treating a condition as soon as possible typically gives your dog a better chance of recovery. This is important for thyroid conditions because leaving them untreated may be fatal. Your veterinarian will perform tests to evaluate the hormone levels.

On the next page: Diagnosing thyroid conditions…

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  • Concerned Owner

    our lab has thyroid problems and is currently on medication. He is doing well except the pads on his feet are constantly red and inflamed and he gets blood ulcers between his toes. These can be lanced but it is a continuing problem. Our vet says it a result of the thyroid problem and to soak his feet in Epsom salts but that doesn’t seem to help; in fact sometimes it makes it worse. Any advice?