Avoid dog collars and processed food
If you landed on this page, you are likely looking for answers about how to treat, prevent and understand canine hypothyroidism. My goal today is to shed new light on some causes of hypothyroidism that are not as acknowledged and provide you with some tools to prevent and treat this condition.
WHAT IS HYPOTHYROIDISM?
The thyroid gland produces thyroxin – a hormone that increases and speeds up the metabolism of every cell of the body. You can also see it as the on and off switch on your stove. When you turn it up and down, the metabolic rate of the fire increases or decreases.
Hypothyroidism is a condition where the lack of thyroid hormone decreases “the burning rate”, the oxygenation of cells and tissues.
Hypothyroidism is a condition that affects humans and dogs. Cats, on the other hand, suffer exclusively from hyperthyroidism (an excess of thyroid hormone), which speeds up the metabolism.
Hypothyroidism makes dogs lethargic, the heart sluggish, their muscles weak, their skin flaky and unhealthy and their body heavy, causing them to accumulate even more fat and toxins.
This, of course, is just the tip of the iceberg because hypothyroidism affects every single cell in the body.
CAUSES OF HYPOTHYROIDISM – HOLISTIC POINT OF VIEW
When I started practicing more than 20 years ago, I simply accepted the fact that hypothyroidism is a genetically predisposed condition that especially affects Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers, Rottweilers, Doberman Pinchers, Boxers, Bernese Mountain dogs and other larger breeds. Most sources believe that this condition is hereditary and I agree that genetics play a role, however, I had no idea how simple it is to prevent it if we know how.
When I took a closer look at hypothyroid dogs at my practice, this is what I discovered:
Hypothyroidism happens almost exclusively in dogs that are on a processed, grain and carbohydrate loaded food.
Hypothyroidism is prevalent in large breeds, especially those who are known to be leash pullers.
Affected dogs often show signs of neck injuries - from the collar, shock collars, tug of war or a fall.
Vaccinations can cause immune system dysfunction, which can result in thyroid gland damage.
Most dogs with hypothyroidism are depleted of basic nutrients and minerals.
Dogs with hypothyroidism have higher than average system toxin build-up and liver and spleen toxicity.
A CLOSER LOOK AT THE PREDISPOSING FACTORS
In my opinion, carbohydrate and grain-based food is one of the biggest cause of disease in dogs and people.
Most people know that using the wrong fuel in a car leads to the engine breaking down. Digestive imbalances and deficiencies result in the whole body going into a state of depletion and immune system agitation. Dogs never graze in wheat or corn fields, so why do pet food companies still recommend grain-based food? They do it because it is cheap.
LARGE BREED PREDISPOSITION
For years, I too believed that large breeds are simply genetically predisposed to hypothyroidism, but then I noticed another connection. I noticed many of the breeds predisposed for hypothyroidism are large dogs and many of them pull on the leash, excited to see the world.
It makes complete sense because when dogs pull on the collar, the pressure is exactly where thyroid gland resides – at the front of the neck. Gradual and repeated trauma of the thyroid gland leads to inflammation, which leads to immune system activation and removal of inflamed thyroid tissue. This results in a decrease of thyroid hormone production – hypothyroidism.
I have been a big advocate of front attachment harnesses and since I started recommending them, I saw the rate of hypothyroidism in my practice drop sharply.
Vaccinations can create a serious insult to the body and the immune system. Dr. Jean Dodds from California has proven a direct link between vaccination and hypothyroidism. I must agree that vaccination does appear to be linked to some early onset of hypothyroidism in puppies and is also more frequent in dogs that are vaccinated repeatedly.
If a dog suffers a neck injury from the collar, tumbles or plays tug of war often, the neck muscles tighten and the energy flow to the neck decreases. The thyroid gland suffers from the consequences.
MINERAL AND NUTRIENT DEPLETION
Mineral and nutrient depletion are one of the single largest causes of disease, besides inappropriate diet. Soil depletion leads to mineral, vitamin and nutrient deficiencies that reduces the function of glands and organs.
Iodine is one of the most important elements in thyroid function, however, other minerals, amino acids and omega oils are also important. This was one of the reasons why I introduced a GreenMin supplement that detoxes the body and provides missing nutrients.
Our dogs are not any different and they are constantly under the influence of toxins from food, the environment and drugs. In my experience, the use of pharmaceuticals in veterinary practice can be reduced by 80 percent.
It has to be acknowledged in the incidence of any disease. Everyone knows that if we do not empty a garbage bin, it starts to rot. Our dogs are not any different and they are constantly under the influence of toxins from food, the environment and drugs.
Adding toxic chemicals hinders and slows down cleansing processes, which can be compared to purifying drinking water by adding sewage to it.
There has also been an alarming trend of feeding cheap treats made in China, that are known to have a long-standing history of recalls. If you want to keep your dog healthy, locally-made, raw food and treats are the best way to go.
Is one of those areas that is not black and white. There are many opinions that often confuse people. My main goal is to simplify here.
In primary hypothyroidism, TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone) levels are high and T4 (thyoxin) and T3 (precursor of thyroxin) levels are low. TSH usually increases when T4 and T3 levels drop. TSH prompts the thyroid gland to make more hormone, but it is not capable of producing thyroid hormone due to dysfunction (damage, injury etc). Some practitioners also like to measure immunoglobulin antibodies against the thyroid gland, which can be valuable.
If the antibody test is positive for hypothyroidism there are two possibilities:
It means that thyroid gland was either traumatized and the body created antibodies against the inflamed thyroid tissues.
The body’s immune system is out of balance and attacking its own tissues.
However, in both situations, the prevention and treatment still consist of the same steps mentioned in the following paragraphs and that is why I do not always run the antibody test.
I. HYPOTHYROIDISM PREVENTION
Prevention is always much easier than treatment. Here is what you should consider.
If your dog is a leash puller or likes to launch or lunge at other dogs, use a front attached harness only (the leash attaches in the front).
Feed a raw, or at least cooked, wholesome diet and avoid processed foods.
Supplement your dog's food with GreenMin, which acts as a detox, helps to eliminate heavy metals and provides essential minerals including iodine in much greater concentrations than kelp.
Avoid drugs and chemicals for internal use or in the environment (cleaning products, lawn and garden products). Use natural and herbal treatments and products only.
Ensure that your dog’s neck is checked regularly by a physiotherapist, animal osteopath or a chiropractor.
Get your dog’s thyroid gland tested on a yearly basis, starting at the age of five.
Have a HairQ Test done to gain awareness of your dog's exposure to trace minerals and heavy metals.
II. TREATMENT OF HYPOTHYROIDISM
Hypothyroidism is a gradually progressing condition that often goes unnoticed for years before diagnosed. That is why preventive screening is so important.
STAGE 1 Treatment
If your dog’s test results are marginally normal or subnormal without any clinical signs, I suggest NOT giving a synthetic hormone, but following these steps:
- Check your dog for any presence of heavy metals and nutritional deficiencies with a HairQ test.
Cleanse the liver by using a herbal liver cleanse supplement.
Follow all the steps included in the section on hypothyroidism prevention and add essential supplements. These supplements should be given on an ongoing basis.
The use of homeopathic remedies prescribed by an experienced homeopath is highly recommended. Here is more info on homeopathy.
Repeat blood tests in two to three-month intervals. Do not use thyroxin unless your dog progresses to STAGE 2.
I have used the above treatment protocol with success in many dogs. Each natural product or supplement has its place and indication. They are a form of healing with concentrated food.
STAGE 2 Treatment
If your dog’s test results are below the normal values, I still suggest following the above steps and recheck the blood test in two months.
If the recheck test values are better than before, continue with Stage 1 treatment and do not use prescription thyroxin and repeat blood work in three-month intervals.
If the values stay the same or become worse, it may mean that the condition is too far gone and the body has lost the ability to produce the thyroid hormone permanently. In such cases, I am not opposed to using prescription medication – thyroxin – in addition to the supplements above. In my opinion, the brand names Synthroid or Eltroxin is superior to generic brands.
Comments on conventional treatment
Consider the prescription of thyroxin hormone as a crutch for those dogs who simply can’t regenerate thyroid gland function.
From my experience, thyroxin is one of the most helpful, inexpensive and naturally-produced drugs out there and causes no, or very few, side effects.
Some people ask if they can stop the prescription down the road. In my experience, this is unlikely except in some very rare exceptions. The longer term loss of natural thyroxin production is permanent and typical for advanced stages of hypothyroidism. This why I say again, disease prevention is THE BEST AND REAL MEDICINE.
© Dr. Peter Dobias, DVM