Hypothyroidism and Increased Cortisol Secretion in Dogs

By Tess Thompson

It is often easy to dismiss some of the symptoms that your dog presents because individually they seem so ordinary. Since dogs have provided companionship, loyalty, and affection to humans, the least that man can do is to ensure that their pets are well cared for and healthy.

Sometimes symptoms like excessive urination, hair loss, and endless panting can be the first warning signs of endocrinal diseases like Cushing’s disease or hypothyroidism.

Disturbances in the required levels of thyroid hormones cause hypothyroidism (diminished hormone secretions) or hyperthyroidism (increased hormone secretion). Most cases of hypothyroidism in dogs results from an autoimmune system dysfunction. This affects the lymphocytes causing them to decreases in size - in some cases. Hyperthyroidism is extremely rare in dogs. In most cases, the underlying cause almost always is a cancerous tumor in the thyroid.

The symptoms of hypothyroidism are vague and not easily discernable. Signs like decreased activity, fluid retention, swelling, infections in the ears or skin, and muscle weakness may not always result in the diagnosis for hypothyroidism. It is always advisable to seek professional consultation to completely rule out thyroid dysfunction.

Once identified, the treatment of a diseased thyroid gland in dogs is relatively simple. If the thyroid gland is not secreting enough hormones, the dog’s owner administers inexpensive synthetic thyroid hormone pills. It is best done under the care of a qualified professional so that the correct dose is arrived at by looking at successive blood tests. Additionally, one symptom of hypothyroidism that needs special mention is hair loss. Loss of hair or change in coat can also indicate hyperadrenocorticism in a dog.

Cushing’s disease in dogs is caused by disturbances in the amount of secretions by the adrenal gland. These disturbances are serious and can prove to be fatal if not controlled in time.

An increase in the secretion of cortisol is an indication of more trying times ahead. This signals the presence of a tumor that is probably hampering the interaction between the pituitary and adrenal glands. The loss of interaction results in an increased level of cortisol. Cushing’s disease in dogs requires an extremely complicated treatment. In many cases, it is recommended that no treatment be followed. The advice is to try to make the dog’s life comfortable for as long as possible.

Endocrinal glands secrete hormones that are responsible for the dedicated functions of the body. Hormonal secretions of the thyroid gland maintains the metabolic rate - that is the rate at which the dog’s body burns calories. Adrenal glands, on the other hand, secrete cortisol hormone that is responsible for healthy functioning of the nervous system and control stress.


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