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Hypothyroidism as a Factor in Dog Behavior

Hypothyroidism is a disorder of the thyroid gland, located in the neck. These glands secrete thyroxine, which affects most of the body systems. The thyroid gland regulates your dog’s metabolic rate, so an imbalance will slow the metabolism causing dogs to gain weight, suffer from skim problems, and lower their tolerance to cold. They may also tire easily.

Classical Hypothyroidism: Dogs seem lethargic and depressed.

Sub-Clinical Hypothyroidism: The dog may  appear anxious, fearful, and become more aggressive or exhibit compulsive disorders like excessive grooming or tail-chasing.  The dog will appear to be a slow learner and often hyper active.

Anxiety Disorder: It is important not to jump to conclusions if your dog is hyper, disobedient, or anxious. There are several anxiety disorders that may be linked in lack of neurostimulation before 8 weeks old, improper training or behavior modification methods, and other health problems.

Separating an anxiety disorder is done by a complete blood count. If the thyroxine (T4) plasma level is lower than 25th percentile the levels may be too low for normal function. (except in sighthounds)

A dog with a thyroid problem will display more than one of the following problems:

  •  Allergies
  • Sad/Worried facial expressions ( looking guilty)
  •  Hyper activity that doesn’t decrease with obedience training or behavior modification
  • Flaky skin, dry brittle coat, and/or year round shedding.
  • Slow regrowth of shaved areas, bald spots, etc.

The good news is that hypothyroidism is easily treated with synthetic thyroxine. There will be an improvement in the dog’s behavior, but it is advisable to work with a behavior consultant to make sure your dog is progressing as quickly as possible, and that you are properly assessing the changes in behavior.