Hypothyroidism is a common disease that can be treated or even prevented by improving and supporting the health of your dog’s thyroid.
Hypothyroidism runs rampant in the human world – just ask any doctor. I believe similar conditions have also existed in the canine world for many years, yet are continually misdiagnosed and poorly understood. Recognizing the signs of disease and working to approach optimal health is so important, especially when it comes to hypothyroidism and associated conditions of chronic degeneration. In this article, we’ll focus on hypothyroidism in dogs, what you should know about it, and how it can be treated, naturally.
The thyroid glands are located in the back of the neck. They release hormones (thyroxine-T4 and triodothyrine-T3) into the system that regulate how the body uses energy and responds to other hormones.
The thyroid works as part of a complex system with the adrenal glands, hypothalamus, and the pituitary gland. Together, they regulate the hormones in the body. For example, stress can cause the adrenals to release a cascade of hormones, causing a negative feedback loop to the hypothalamus and pituitary. This decreases the release of their specific hormones, slowing the production of more hormones from the thyroid and adrenals. It’s all intricately connected.
If a dog has hypothyroidism, it means his thyroid glands aren’t producing enough of those hormones, and as a result, his body isn’t circulating, absorbing or using them. Blocks can occur anywhere in the pathway; for example, in the conversion of T4 to T3 and in the cellular uptake of free T4/T3.
Why do dogs develop it?
Generally, canine hypothyroidism is caused by impaired metabolic or detoxification pathways and related nutrient deficiencies. In fact, many respected holistic veterinarians agree that 90% of cases are autoimmune in nature, and likely caused by many factors, including:
- Vaccinosis (the toxic effects of vaccines) and over-vaccination
- Chemical toxicity from medications, toxic “preventatives” and environmental exposure (especially to heavy metals and pesticides such as Roundup)
- Estrogen dominance, when there is too much estrogen or too many toxic estrogen metabolites in the tissues and blood, often from plastic containers for food and water
- EMF (electromagnetic frequency) radiation (e.g. Wi-Fi, cell phones, cordless phones) which all create primary and secondary endocrine disruption.
Diagnosis can be difficult
There are a wide range of hypothyroidism symptoms (see sidebar at right). Some are easy to spot, while others are often overlooked or attributed to something else.
Standard lab testing for T4 alone is not adequate; as well, standard reference ranges are inadequate because of inherent diagnosis issues. Even full extensive thyroid panels don’t tell the whole story. Many experts are still unaware that blocks can occur all along the pathway, and that the reference ranges are misrepresentative.
Most cases I see have some degree of autoimmunity (especially Labs, goldens, German shepherds and poodles). All have toxicity, and many have T4 to T3 conversion issues (sluggish liver toxicity). Some also have cellular issues blocking uptake.
Many people, including veterinarians, don’t appreciate how hypothyroidism can be directly associated with anxiety or depression, as well as with behavior changes. Keep a close eye out for any of these symptoms. If you notice them, make an appointment with a holistic or integrative veterinarian for closer inspection, as early intervention is crucial for support and healing. I would say that 99% of all seizure cases I have seen are primary hypothyroid and have significant toxicity issues. Most dogs never need seizure medications when we can get them the proper thyroid and detoxification therapy.
Supporting and improving thyroid health naturally
- My number one recommendation for supporting and improving thyroid health is EMF reduction and mitigation. EMF toxicity may be the missing link. It increases extreme dysbiosis and is the primary factor in endocrine disruption, making EMFs the single most preventable secondary and primary cause of all endocrine issues.
- Gentle thyroid support can include thyroid flower essences, low potency homeopathy (Thyroidinum or Calcarea carbonica) and glandular supplements. With significant symptoms, herbal hypothyroid combinations may also be an excellent place to start. Some herbs I find effective are turmeric, ashwagandha and Coleus forskohlii. For seizure cases or progressed signs, I strongly recommend low dosing with natural thyroid hormone support (e.g. Armour Thyroid, Nature Throid or WP Thyroid)
- Detoxification is also very important. Because of the link between toxins and autoimmune issues, all cases need gentle detox. My favorite detoxifiers are milk thistle and homeopathy. General immune support and treating co-infections are critical, as significant symptoms may present when detoxification processes are underway. Go slow and steady; pay attention, as only you know your dog best. Inflammation can show up anywhere in the body during the healing process, but don’t stop – get experienced advice from your vet. Anti-seizure medications should not be discontinued during the initial detox and the dog must be weaned off them very slowly.
- A slow and gentle increase of physical activity, along with Earthing time in nature, can immensely benefit chronic cases. Ensure your dog gets enough good quality sleep to optimize cellular repair and regeneration; limit or remove possible EMF sources in his sleeping areas. At the very least, turn off the Wi-Fi when you leave the house and at bedtime.
Nutrition for boosting thyroid health
Several nutritional supplements can be added to help manage existing hypothyroidism, and prevent thyroid issues in the first place. Here are some of the important nutrients required for healthy thyroid function:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin D
- Ferritin or iron
Seek experienced advice from your vet if using supplements, since types and dosages can vary depending on your dog’s needs.
I also recommend whole foods sourced to start [start what – copy missing?], such as kelp, liver, sardines and oysters. Incorporating some natural fiber is also excellent. Small to moderate amounts of organ meat, blueberries, avocados, almonds, pumpkin seeds and flaxseed oil can be very beneficial for the prevention of early hypothyroidism symptoms.
Addressing the dog’s microbiome, digestion and absorption of key nutrients, along with incorporating cellular detoxification support like CBD (cannabidiol) are also key prevention and first-step therapies. Adding fermented foods and/or apple cider vinegar to your dog’s diet may be ideal for prevention or when a severe case has stabilized.
I strongly believe that most of our dogs are experiencing early aging due to this misdiagnosed and poorly-understood problem of canine hypothyroidism. I also believe that most degenerative conditions are a sequelae to undiagnosed hypothyroidism because of poor lymphatic drainage and circulation, and impaired immune function. With raised awareness as a holistic canine healthcare community, however, we can begin earlier treatment and support, and make so many dogs’ lives better!