Sunday, September 14, 2008

Thyroid Issues and Shelties

The mom is still concerned about my scratching. It has subsided a lot but in the last two weeks I have been shedding like crazy and when the dad gave me a bath yesterday (eeeeekkkkk water!!!!) he said he could actually see my pink skin!!!!! Something he had never seen before because my fur has always been so thick. Now it could be that I have just shed out my puppy fluff and I am starting to get ready for my winter coat but the mom is still worried, so we are off to see Dr Boyer tomorrow just to make sure it is not anything else.

Mom has also been doing some reading and came across quite a lot of information about Shelties and thyroid problems. She found this on the Illinois Sheltie Rescue Website and thought others might like to read it and just keep the information tucked away for future reference.

Help.....My Sheltie is scratching and itchy all over.

Help.....My Sheltie keeps gaining weight

Help...... My sheltie has terrible allergies

Help........My Sheltie has constant ear infections

Help.......My Shelties skin and coat look awful

If any of these sound familiar, your Sheltie may have "Hypothyroidism".......or "Low Thyroid". It is one of the most common ailments in this breed, yet is goes undiagnosed MOST of the time.........

A low thyroid Sheltie may display some or all of these symptoms:

  • Overweight! Weight gain or the inability to lose weight.....ravenous appetite, acts starving all the time. A sheltie who is overweight and normal diet and exercise don't help.....should be checked for low thyroid.

  • Skin problems. Dry, itchy, flakey skin. The Sheltie will scratch and chew at his skin. Often diagnosed as an allergy. Mild cases can just involve itchy irritated skin. The more severe cases often have infected, open sores. These dogs often smell bad because of the infection in the skin, or the resulting yeast infection in the skin from Antibiotic use. Unlike DM........thyroid hair loss is most often on the trunk of the body.....not just the feet or tail. Thyroid tests should be run on any Sheltie with skin problems.

  • Ear infections. Either bacteria or yeast based. Ongoing or occasional. The lower the thyroid the more chronic the ear infections become. If a Sheltie has gone too long with low thyroid, the ears can thicken and become deformed from constant infection. (Often called Cauliflower Ear) Any ear infection in a Sheltie should be accompanied by a thyroid test. When we have a dog come in with an ear infection, the thyroid is the first thing we check.

  • Puppies that are the same size as their littermates but weigh considerably more are the ones that have a thyroid problem in later years. I know this is not scientific.......but this is what we see.

  • Coat problems .... Low Thyroid shelties just don't have healthy looking coats. It can vary from thin, short, sparse, fuzzy, and often downy soft fur. In all cases, a low thyroid Sheltie just does not have a nice thick, long coat.

  • Runny eye or eyes. A clear watery discharge coming from the eye. It is often misdiagnosed as a blocked tear duct. (note: a yellow or green discharge from the eye is not low thyroid and should be looked at by your Vet)

  • Cholesterol deposits (foggy spots) on one or both eyes.

  • High cholesterol blood test results

Of course there are always other causes of all of these symptoms, but low thyroid needs to be ruled out.

Our group alone places 100-200 shelties per year. I would easily say that about a third of them are low thyroid. It is so common that we can now just look at a group of shelties and pick out the ones with low thyroid.

The reason that so many Shelties with Low Thyroid go because Shelties need to maintain a higher thyroid level than most other breeds. Sadly, this is NOT what most vets are taught in vet school. What many vets would interpret as a "normal" test result, is NOT normal for a sheltie. A sheltie must always run very high normal to be truly normal. We suggest making sure the T4 is in the upper 1/2 to 1/3 of normal. For example; lets say your test's normal range is from 1-6. If your Sheltie's tests result is 1.8, many Vets will call that "normal". We disagree. We would like to see a Sheltie test at 3.5--4 or higher on this scale. We have seen some extremely sick Shelties that will test at under a 2.

Another interesting scenario we have run into. Let's say that your Sheltie has multiple low thyroid symptoms..... but the T4 tests show he is in the upper range already. Don't give up on thyroid !! Sometimes the old "If it walks like a duck" thing applies here. It could just be that your Sheltie is "going" low thyroid. Wait 2 months and test again.

Now; we are not suggesting that you march in and tell you Vet what to do! Rather; we are suggesting you share this vital information with your vet, and ask him to work with you in solving the problem. This is not something you can treat by yourself. However, if your vet is unwilling to listen to you, or refuses to work with you....... well then you have some choices to make.

Ask your vet to make sure your Shelties T4 (test) is in the upper 1/3 of normal. If your shelties test comes back "low normal" and your Sheltie has symptoms, (see below) ask your vet to start him on thyroid medicine. Soloxine is the drug of choice. We have not had good luck with the generic brands. Your vet can advise the strength and dose. (We prefer twice a day treatment over once a day.) The normal dosage is .10 per 10 pounds of body weight twice a day. So, a 30 pound sheltie would get .3 in the morning and .3 again at night. Adjust the dosage with the dogs weight.

As far as what test to use.....we have played with the different tests and symptoms in all of these Shelties. The test itself doesn't matter as much as knowing the normal range. The T4 always and consistently tells us what we need to know. I know the T4 can vary with many things......but not that much...and not enough to make a difference in what we are looking for. In other words.........start with the T4. It may be all you need, and it is far less expensive than the full thyroid panel.

After 30-45 days on the Soloxine, you should begin to see the symptoms easing away. It doesn't happen overnight, as it takes Soloxine a month to build up in the system. When beginning on Soloxine, ask your vet to check the levels (T4) every 6 weeks for a few months just to make sure the dosage is correct. Then check levels yearly after that. Just remember ......... with Shelties you want the levels in the upper third of normal.

1 comment:

  1. Great information! Low thyroid can also cause seizures in many breeds of dog. If you suspect thyroid issues, I strongly recommend getting a 6-panel thyroid test done and sending the results to Dr. Dodds at Merely "within range" isn't enough for many dogs; breed, age, size, and activity level all need to be taken into consideration. Many vets are not able to interpret the results accurately with these factors in mind, so thyroid issues may go undiagnosed.


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