A quick entry today, related to my recent focus on herbs for the anxious or stressed out dog. In my clinical work I very often meet dogs who exhibit a range of seemingly unexplained symptoms that have frustrated the owner for a long time. Many of them will improve with dietary adjustments and herbal support – but sometimes, we can’t seem to do as much. In years past I would try everything in my toolkit to help, and finally at the end of ideas, suggest the owner have a full-panel thyroid done. In the intractable cases, I would say 75% had undiagnosed thyroid disease; appropriate treatment (safe and inexpensive, relatively) cleared up all the lingering problems, so the diet can do it’s job of supporting optimal health. Thyroid disease often goes undiagnosed; there is such a list of symptoms it can be hard for people to connect the dots.Prominent amongst these are poor coat/dry skin, coldness/heat-seeking behaviour, unexplained weight gain, irritability or depression, slow wound healing/recurrent infection, lethargy and sometimes, snappishness that seems uncharacteristic…a whole range of behavioural symptoms that can appear without the characteristic weight gain and low temperature.


These days, I don’t put us all through the time, money and frustration of trying everything dietary first, when I take on a case that suggests a thyroid issue. I ask clients whose dogs present with any of these suspicious symptoms to have a fullpanel thyroid test done right away. It comes back just fine in about 60% of the cases I work with..and the other 40%, get the treatment they need right off the bat – as well as the personalized diet plan. It’s win/win; owners whose dogs are fine, have their minds put at ease, I know what I’m working with, hypothyroid dogs get he treatment they require – we’re all happy.


Takeaway messages:

1) Diet can support thyroid function but it can NOT correct hypothyroidism.

2) Not many veterinarians really understand the range of behavioural symptoms related to low thyroid. If yours doesn’t think a sudden behavioural change can be thyroid,insist on the test or find a better vet.

3) The test that is done in-house, the one that looks only T-4 levels, is not adequate for diagnosis; most authorities feel it’s wrong at least half the time. I don’t even know why they bother with it, to be blunt. If you suspect low thyroid, it’s imperative to have your vet do what is called a fullpanel thyroid evaluation – one that looks at T-4 and T-3 and a range of other factors (references below offer more detail).

4) Consider deeper education on thyroid issues; Jean Dodds has an excellent book on the topic I highly recommend to anyone with a hypothyroid dog, or a breed at high risk (and bear in mind, any breed or mixed breed dog can develop thyroid problems, these are just the highest risk ones). Check out the resources below too, for further learning.

Highest Risk Breeds

1. English Setter
2. Polish Lowland Sheepdog
3. Havanese
4. Old English Sheepdog
5. Boxer
6. American Pit Bull Terrier
7. German Wirehaired Pointer
8. Tibetan Terrier
9. Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever
10. English Pointer
11. Maltese
12. Beagle
13. Dalmatian
14. Giant Schnauzer
15. Cocker Spaniel
16. Kuvasz
17. Rhodesian Ridgeback
18. Walker Hound
19. American Staffordshire Terrier
20. Welsh Springer Spaniel
21. Golden Retriever
22. Husky
23. Shetland Sheepdog
24. Pointer
25. Chesapeake Bay Retriever
26. Irish Setter
27. Brittany
28. Siberian Husky
29. English Cocker Spaniel
30. Gordon Setter

A last word; in terms of supplements and herbs to manage hypothyroidism, as always I don’t believe in generic advice or simplistic solutions; I evaluate your dog as an individual and recommend according to a full history; I make sure the diet supplies optimal levels of all nutrients, help support digestion with food selection that works for your individual; and suggest herbs as needed, with consideration for your dog’s whole history and needs. I’ve seen many generic recommendations for treating hypothyroidism at home and it just makes me cringe; have your dog seen by a vet, and then we can talk about what foods and supplements will be most beneficial for him or her.


Resources for further reading

1) Multiple articles from  renowned veterinarian Jean Dodds: https://drjeandoddspethealthresource.tumblr.com/dodds-thyroid#.X0oqsYt7m70