Skip to main content

Thyroid issues in dogs: These are the telltale signs you should consult a vet

These are the common red flags of hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism in dogs

You’ve likely heard about thyroid issues occurring in humans, including cancer. However, dogs can develop thyroid conditions, too, including hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism.

Before getting into what these terms mean, let’s discuss the thyroid gland. It’s situated in your pup’s neck near the trachea and is responsible for regulating their metabolic rate. Metabolism is important because it’s how your body converts food into energy and can affect your dog’s weight and overall health.

Hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism in dogs are two metabolic disorders. They sound the same and even have similar symptoms, but they’re the opposite of one another. The good news is that both are typically treatable and not fatal. Let’s dig deeper into thyroid problems in dogs.

a red fox labrador retriever lying on a blue and white striped blanket
Image used with permission by copyright holder

What do hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism mean?

Hyperthyroidism in dogs occurs when the thyroid overproduces hormones, which causes their metabolism to speed up. It’s essentially an overactive thyroid.

Hypothyroidism in dogs is the opposite. Dogs with this condition have thyroids that do not produce enough hormones, leading to a slowdown of their metabolism. In other words, dogs with hypothyroidism have underactive thyroids.

These conditions may sound scary, but understanding them can help you advocate for your dog.

A close-up shot of a Golden Retriever with a crowd of people in the background.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

What puts a dog at greater risk for hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism?

Hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism are both rare, but they can happen. Unfortunately, it’s not possible to prevent these conditions in the same way it’s possible to take steps to reduce the risk of other issues. For example, daily walks and a healthy diet of mostly dog food can help to mitigate obesity, diabetes, and heart problems.

When it comes to hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism, it’s often the luck of the draw.

However, there are a few factors that up the chances of thyroid issues in dogs, such as:

  • Medication: Medication to treat hypothyroidism may trigger hyperthyroidism.
  • Size: These disorders are more common in mid to large-sized dogs.
  • Breed: Golden Retrievers are at an increased risk for developing hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism. Hyperthyroidism is more commonly seen in Beagles and Siberian Huskies, while Cocker Spaniels and Irish Setters are predisposed to hypothyroidism.
  • Age: Thyroid problems in dogs typically happen during middle-age and senior years.a large tri-colored dog lying on a wooden floor

What are the common signs and symptoms of thyroid problems in dogs?

It’s important to note that only a vet can diagnose a thyroid issue in your dog. They’ll run diagnostic blood tests to check your dog’s thyroid hormone levels. That said, no one spends more time with your dog than you do, so knowing common red flags can empower you to advocate for your pet and have a vet perform the necessary tests.

Dogs with hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism often display symptoms like:

  • Sudden weight gain or loss
  • Lethargy
  • Changes in appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Increased thirst
  • Urinating more than usual
  • Rapid or slowed heart rate
  • A lump on the neck
  • Hyperactivity
  • Thinning coat
  • Difficulty moving or lameness
  • Hair loss or thinning
  • Chronic skin infections
  • Skin pigmentation changes
  • Seizures

A Husky lies on a table while a vet examines them
What happens if hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism are left untreated?

Again, dogs with hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism can continue to lead happy lives, but treatment is essential. Left untreated, the issue can compound and affect other organs. Dogs may have difficulty maintaining a healthy weight, experience high cholesterol, and be at an increased risk for other illnesses because of immune dysfunction.

In a worst-case scenario, untreated hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism can become fatal.

Veterinarian checking health records while dog looks on.
Image used with permission by copyright holder


What’s treatment like for dogs with thyroid conditions?

There is no cure for these conditions. Dogs with hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism will typically take oral medications for the rest of their lives. Vets will frequently run bloodwork to test hormone levels and may adjust dosages if they are too high or low. Costs can vary depending on the vet. For example, bloodwork can cost around $50, while exams may be $100 or more. Pet insurance can help cover the costs of your dog’s care.

Your vet may also work with you and your pet on establishing a healthy diet.

Hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism occur not only in humans but in our furry friends as well. They are rare, but some breeds, such as golden retrievers, are more prone to these conditions. These issues are more common in middle-aged or senior pets but can happen to anyone. There is no cure, but treatment options are available. Lifelong medication will help keep your dog’s thyroid hormone levels in check, and more frequent visits to the vet will likely be needed. Dogs can live with thyroid issues, but it’s essential to receive treatment. Left untreated, hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism can lead to several other problems, including a shortened lifespan. If you notice symptoms like hair loss, lethargy, or unexplained weight changes, speak to your vet about running bloodwork.

Editors' Recommendations

BethAnn Mayer
Beth Ann's work has appeared on healthline.com and parents.com. In her spare time, you can find her running (either marathons…
Why do you often find your dog with their tongue out? Here’s what vets say about the ‘blep’
This behavior may be cute, but what does it really mean?
A German shepherd puppy sticks out their tongue

There's nothing cuter than a "blep" but what does it mean? Whether you first heard the term blep on the internet (it is meme-worthy, after all), or are learning of it for the first time, you're in for a treat. Bleps are positively adorable. The term started gaining online traction in the late 2010s, though it's no less popular today. The common canine behavior it's based on, however, is a habit as old as time: sticking out a tongue. Yep, a dog with its tongue out is enough to break the internet!

It's pretty dang cute, after all, but it's not always easy to figure out why a dog's tongue is sticking out. Don't worry though, pet parents — this is a great place to start. This is everything you need to know about bleps and what they mean.

Read more
When do puppies stop biting? That might be up to their owner
Those sharp little teeth hurt! What to know about your biting puppy
Pup biting on a finger

If you’ve ever watched puppies play together, then you know that biting and nipping are all part of the fun. Chewing and biting help growing puppies investigate the world around them and also help relieve sore gums when teething. However, while mouthing on your hand might have been funny when your little one was a ball of fluff, it’s no joking matter as he gets older. Those razor-sharp puppy teeth can really hurt. If you’re tired of living with broken skin and painful bruises, you’re probably wondering just when do puppies stop biting?

Do puppies grow out of biting and nipping?
While chewing everything in sight may decrease after your puppy is done teething (which can take anywhere from four to six months) they don’t naturally grow out of biting. The more a puppy is allowed to clamp down on your skin, the more he’ll continue to do it. As a responsible pet parent, it’s your job to teach your dog appropriate behavior.

Read more
Why is my dog whining? 6 common reasons and what you can do to stop it
If you wonder "why is my dog whining?" — check out the possible causes
Sad dog resting his head near a shoe

Let’s be honest: No matter how much we love our fur babies, living with a dog that's a whiner can drive you crazy. Whining can be irritating, heartbreaking, and even anxiety-inducing for owners. Whether it's distracting you from work, making you sad to leave the house, or making you worry that something is wrong with your dog, figuring out why your dog is whining and what you can do about it is important.

No matter how disruptive it is, always remember that whining is a form of communication for our dogs, say training experts at the ASPCA. The key is to properly interpret the noise and figure out how to work with her on it; to try to answer the question, "Why is my dog whining?"

Read more