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 and In her spare time, you can find her running (either marathons…
What you need to know about dogs with blue eyes
Here are the facts behind blue eyes in dogs, a rarity that comes with some health risks
Upside down brown dog

Blue-eyed dogs are striking, mostly because they are such an unusual sight. After all, even though all puppies are born with blue eyes, 95% of them will change color within the first eight to 10 weeks of life. And while there’s almost nothing sweeter than staring into the brown eyes of an adoring pet, those dog breeds with blue eyes are, well, a sight to behold.

If you’re lucky enough to own a dog with blue eyes, congratulations. If, like the rest of us, you’re just curious about what causes that beautiful abnormality, read on. We’ll share which dog breeds naturally have blue eyes, why that occurs, and if blue-eyed dogs are at risk for health problems as a result.

Read more
Could it be a dog paw infection? Signs, symptoms, and treatments for these pesky, painful issues
Dog paw infection 101: How to avoid and treat this problem
Dog paws on a wood slab

It's hard not to relish daily walks with your dog. You both get fresh air and much-needed exercise, and seeing your dog explore and discover the world is oh-so-fun. Afterward, you and your pup might even engage in a cozy snuggle session on the couch. What could be better?
Dogs also walk in small amounts at home, whether during a play session or a trip to the backyard, and paw health is essential to keep them comfortable and walking. If one or more of your dog’s paws gets injured or infected, mobility can be tricky, painful, and sometimes impossible. As a pet parent, the last thing you want is to see your fur baby in pain. Injuries might be inevitable, but understanding the causes, signs, and treatment for a dog paw infection can ensure your pet gets the proper care as soon as possible. After all, early detection and treatment can prevent the condition from getting worse.
Here’s what you need to know.

What causes a dog paw infection? You can help your pup avoid paw discomfort if you know what to look for
As much as we'd like to give you an easy answer, several factors can contribute to a paw infection. Here are a few common ones.

Read more
Does your dog drink a lot of water? Here’s when you should be concerned
Is your dog thirstier than usual? This could be the reason why
A pug drinking water from a sink faucet

Ensuring your furry best friend gets plenty of water is one of the most important parts of being a pet parent. But how much water should your dog drink on a daily basis? Veterinarians claim the general rule of thumb is a simple equation: The majority of dogs require around 1/2 to 1 ounce (about 1/8 of a cup) of water per pound of body weight each day. Don't want to reach for your measuring cup? Make sure your pup has round-the-clock access to clean water, and everything should be fine.

That being said, if your dog empties their water bowl several times a day, or you notice their intake has increased drastically, you should probably keep a close eye on things. If your dog drinks a lot of water, you may be wondering, "Why is my dog always thirsty?" We'll share how to monitor your pup's water intake, the most common reasons your dog may be thirsty, and when you should speak with your vet.

Read more