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…
Off-leash dog training is easy if you follow these 5 tips
These tips will make this process smoother
Puppy learning to heel

We’re going out on a limb here, but it’s safe to say that if you’ve ever caught the look on a dog’s face when he’s running off leash at the dog park, you’ve caught a glimpse of what pure bliss looks like.

As a pet parent, it’s only natural to want to see that expression more often. And, without disparaging the leashed walk around the neighborhood, your dog would probably tell you he’d prefer being off leash more often. Is that possible, given local leash laws and all the mischief your untethered pet can get himself into? Perhaps, if he is well trained.

Read more
What you need to know about your cat’s swollen lip – what causes it and how to help it heal
These are the most likely causes and best treatment options for your cat's swollen lip
Woman petting cat

Your sweet furry friend is a wealth of enjoyment and entertainment — from funny sleeping positions to those precious purrs. Cat behavior can be somewhat of a mystery for even the most dedicated kitty lovers, though, and those feline feelings can lead to physical manifestations that puzzle us.

If you've ever looked at your cat and noticed a swelling on the upper or lower lip, here's what you need to know: This common occurrence isn't something to worry about, but it isn't something to ignore, either. While your vet checks your cat's health, you can read up on this confusing condition. Here's what causes a cat's swollen lip.

Read more
Do puppies sleep a lot? These are the perfectly normal sleeping habits of a healthy pup
Puppies sleep a lot, but here's when it's normal and when to be concerned
Puppy sleeping on lap of human with mustard yellow sweater

Generally, puppies require abundant sleep — some will snooze up to 20 hours per day. Every pup is different, though and as they get older, the number of sleep hours decreases. By about 16 weeks of age, most dog breeds will be able to sleep through the night.

Sleep is an essential element of human and canine development. As anyone who has had a new puppy can tell you, it can be tough at first to get them into a good sleeping routine. Still, you'll want to make sure you and your new dog are rested and fit for all that life has to offer you. Here is everything you need to know about when your new puppy should be sleeping through the night and the answer to the question, "Do puppies sleep a lot?"

Read more