Thyroid diseases in dogs

As part of my education I finished reading up the book “The Canine Thyroid Epidemic” by Dr. Jean Dodds. While I think most pet parents will benefit from what’s in the book, the book can get a bit too technical at times and some people may get hypochondriac reading such details. So I think a precis of what’s in the book may help pet parents. So here we go.

Firstly, we understand a bit about Thyroid diseases. HYPERThyroidism is a condition where there is too much Thyroid hormone in the body. HYPOThyroidism is where there is too less. The latter is more common in dogs. It can be caused by several reasons. The prominent ones that stand out are:

  1. Hereditary, inherited from parents
  2. Stress
  3. Collars that damage the thyroid organ that sits in the soft part of the neck
Unfortunately, the tests that detect early stage of hypothyroidism is not done in India. To understand why, we need to understand a bit about how this hormone is synthesized in the body. There is another hormone called TSH that regulates how much thyroid hormone needs to be generated in the body. In humans TSH regulates about 90% of the thyroid hormone. In dogs, TSH is responsible for only 70%. Growth Hormone or GH is responsible for the other 30%. Labs that are used to testing for humans look at the TSH value to tell you if you suffer from thyroid disease. In dogs, TSH reading is quite useless. So, unless the disease reaches very late stages, the current lab tests are quite useless.
Without a lab test that proves the existence of the disease, few vets will start off on hormone replacement treatment. So there is little that can be done to help such dogs. In this situation, there are a few things we can do as home remedies. These don’t apply just to dogs with the disease, but to all dogs, as a preventive.

Reduce Stress

Stress is introduced in our dogs lives in many ways. Punishments, threats of punishments, yelling at home, playing fetch, excessive discipline, no things to own etc…cause stress in dogs. Take away as many stressors as possible and make it a smooth ride for your dog

No collars

Shift immediately from collars to harnesses. Physical damage to the thyroid gland apart, collars can cause a lot of other damage. It can damage the voice box, the spine, cut off blood supply to the brain and the eyes. In many ways, a collar is damaging for dogs. Harnesses distribute the tension across the body, reducing the impact on any one organ and making it a lot more healthier

Boost your dogs immunity

This is done in two ways
  1. Reducing exposure to toxins
  2. Improving diet

Reducing exposure to toxins

Toxins come in many ways into our household – cleaning products, pesticides, fertilizers etc. Switch to organic products. Daily dump has organic alternatives for all of the above.
Another source is the tick & flea products we use on our dogs. These can contain chemicals like Organophosphates, Carbamates & Pyrethrins. Organophospates(OPs) are neurotoxins that kill insects by interfering with transmission of nerve signals in their brains and nervous systems.  According to a recent report by NRDC, “In overdoses, OPs can also kill people and pets. But even with normal use of the products containing OPs, pets and children are in danger”. 
Carbamates are closely related to OPs and are also toxic to the brain and nervous system.  Carbaryl & propoxur are two common carbamates used in tick & flea control products.
Pyrethrins are extracted from certain types of chrysanthemums.  Spot on treatments tend to contain these. According to Department of Health and Human Services Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry these chemicals can be toxic to insects and mammals.  The concentration of this chemical in many of the spot-on pet treatment products is stronger than in any products approved by the EPA or FDA for human and animal use.
Instead of these products, try using natural oils like neem, citronella, apple cider etc. Wash the dogs bed in hot water. Clean the house with lemon grass solution. These are far better for us and the dogs too.

Improve diet

Your dogs diet has to contain essential minerals, vitamins and fats. Meats contain several of the necessary nutrients your dog needs. Grains are dicey. Grains with gluten may not be ideal for your dog. But a dog with gluten allergy may not show the allergy by going into anaphylactic shock. But you may see other symptoms like shedding, panting, low energy etc. So it’s best to avoid gluten. Fruits and veggies are important as well – green veggies and yellow/orange coloured veggies. In this section we have spinach, lettuce, drumstick leaves, methi etc. In the orange section we have papaya, pumpkin, carrots, beets, sweet potato etc….
Here is a table of micronutrients necessary and their sources

Copper Beans, potato, dark leafy greens, channa, legumes
Iodine Potato peel, curds, banana Cod, fish, egg,
Linileic Acid Nuts, vegetable oil Chicken, eggs, fish oil,
Selenium Bread, Sunflower Seeds Fish, Pork, Beef, Lamb, Chicken
Vitamin B6 Sunflower seeds, banana, spinach, garlic, potato Fish, turkey, chicken, pork, beef,
Vitamin E Sunflower seeds & oil, almonds, peanut butter, spinach, pumpkin
Zinc Pumpkin seeds, spinach, cashew, beans, til, channa, dal, curds Beef, lamb, pork, chicken

Foods that need to be avoided:

  • Grapes & raisins
  • strawberries
  • citrus fruits
  • alcohol
  • avocadoes
  • chocolate
  • coffee, tea, cola
  • mushrooms
  • nutmeg
  • onions
  • xylitol (artificial sweetener in chewing gum, lipstick and other candy)

Conclusion

I am working with some vets to see if we can somehow to early stage diagnosis of this disease. But for now, as we wait for the system to fall into place, prevention is the best cure. So keep your dog stress free, avoid physical damage to the thyroid gland, reduce toxins and feed well. If you are keen on knowing more, do get a copy of the book I mentioned earlier. It’s a good read.
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