Hypothyroidism and other Endocrine Disoroders in Boxer Dogs
Dr. Peter Graham, AHDL, MSU
Notes from the ABC 2002 Health Seminar
> 50% of cases are lymphocytic thyroiditis (also called autoimmune or inflammatory thyroiditis)
This type of thyroiditis is identified by the presence of TgAA (thyroid autoantibody) in the blood
75% of outwardly "healthy" dogs have circulating TgAA
Other indications are low T4, high TSH, sub-normal TSH response
- Weight gain
- Lethargy or weakness
- Cold intolerance/heat-seeking behavior
- Dermatological symptoms (poor coat, alopecia, seborrhea, hyperpigmentation, myxoderma)
- Secondary dermatological symptoms are pyoderma and pruritis
- Bradycardia (slow heart rate)
- Rare or unconfirmed symptoms: Neruopathy, xanthoma, corneal lipids, female infertility, seizures
- "Tragic" facial expression
Levels of Disease
Stage 1 - Subclinical thyroiditis
Stage 2 - Subclinical hypothyroidism
Stage 3 - Hypothyroidism
Incidence of thyroiditis
|Breed|| Number of dogs || Percent w/thyroiditis || Rate affected |
Boxer is #6 on the list of top ten breeds affected.
MSU Thyroid Panel
|Total T4||15 - 50|
|Total T3||1.0 - 2.5|
|Free T4||12 - 33|
|Free T3||2.8 - 6.5|
|TSH||0 - 0.68|
|*These can interfere with T4 & T3 readings
Most cases of thyroiditis are seen in in MI, WI, IL, OH, CA, and the northeast US.
Submissions to MSU ADHL from 1/1/01 - 4/1/02 for Boxers
482 were already taking medication for thyroid
60 were for "screening" per vet's information (13 of these were for submission to OFA)
1,931 assumed to be testing for diagnosis.
Of those, 1,063 included information from the vet as to the symptoms leading to the test:
69% - alopecia
9% - flank alopecia
48% - obesity
31% - weight loss
Only 3% of submissions were known to be pre-breeding screenings
Of the 1,931 submitted for diagnosis:
|1,093 were clearly normal||57%|
|165 were clearly hypothyroid||9%|
|114 - lymphatic||6%|
|51 - idiopathic||3%|
|156 had subclinical thyroiditis||8%|
|255 had subclinical hypothyroidism||13%|
| ||117 - TgAA+||6%|
| ||138 - TgAA-||7%|
|14 were possibly hypothyroid with TgAA+||1%|
|248 classified as other/undiagnosed||13%|
| ||non-thyroid related|| |
| ||medication|| |
| ||hypothyroid with normal TSH|| |
| ||hyperthyroid|| |
Causes of Hypothyroidism (rate of autoimmune : idiopathic)
|Overall (all breeds/mixes)||50:50|
Predisposition to hypothyroidism definitely has a genetic component.
Most dogs are found to be at certain stages at a specific age:
|Stage 1||2-3 years old|
|Stage 2||4 years old|
|Stage 3||6-7 years old|
Of 171 dogs with TgAA+:
>50% showed no symptoms
~25% showed symptoms of Stage 1
~14% showed symptoms of Stage 2
~15% showed symptoms of hypothyroidism
Of dogs found to have TgAA+ with no symptoms:
1 in 20 will become hypothyroid within 1 year
1 in 5 will have early/partial failure of the thyroid
6-15% will become TgAA-
Reluctant to discuss fertility problems related to hypothyroidism:
The relationship is controversial
The relationship is generally seen only in textbook hypothyroid cases
Flank alopecia in Boxers is more often not hypothyroid-related - it is generally seasonal follicular dysplasia.
Giving kelp to a TgAA+ dog will progress subclinical to clinical faster than anything else.
As far as testing: check the heart first, then the thyroid. Hypothryoidism can cause dysrhythmias. Thus, if the dog is diagnosed with (f.ex.) FVA and hypothyroid, low-dose treat the hypothyroidism first. (High doses are commonly given.)
MHC Complex in humans is associated with hypothyroidism.
- Fasting preferred
- Estrus in females is not a consideration
- Age - start at 1 year
- If the animal is obviously sick, do not do the test
- Vaccination will change the TgAA levels, but not usually to over 200%
- (could wait 2-3 months after giving vaccination to do test)
- Steroid drugs will interfere with test results
- Antihistamines may interfere
Hypothyroidism and allergies often show the same problems at the same rates; they are not necessarily causative of each other.
85-90% of cases are pituitary dependent
Adenoma, adenocarcinomas are adrenal dependent.
Iatrogenic (caused by external factors) - usually due to exogenous steroids (not produced by the body)
Cushings in canines:
- Generally occurs in mid-old age (7-8+ years)
- Females affected more often than males
- Signs include:
- Polydipsia (excessive thirst)
- Polyuria (excessive urination)
- Polyphagia (excessive hunger)
- Muscle wasting, weakness, potbelly, panting
- Skin thinning, calcinosis cutis (calcium deposits in the skin), pigment changes
- Hair loss (symmetrical)
- Reproductive dysfunctions
Methods for diagnosis (many false positives are found)
- Low-dose dexamethasone
- ACTH response test
- Urinary cortisol:creatin ratio
- For steroid-induced: alkaline phosphatase test
- Dexamethasone suppression (low, hi, mega)
- Endogenous ACTH
Aggressive treatment of Cushing's can cause the opposite condition (Addison's disease).
Causes can be endocrine, non-endocrine, or unknown (as in seasonal flank alopecia).
For More Information
The following links offer more information on thyroid issues in dogs. This is obviously an incomplete list, and as is the nature of Internet articles, the links may change at any time. Items prefaced by an asterisk (*) are Adobe .pdf files.
*Canine Thyroid and AutoImmune Disease
Canine Primary Hypothyroidism & Autoimmune Thyroiditis
*Hypothyroidism in the Dog
*International Symposium on Canine Hypothyroidism
Interpreting Thyroid Test Results
*Is Hypothyroidism Really the Leading Canine Genetic Disease?
MSU Diagnostic Center for Population and Animal Health
MSU Canine Thyroid Registry
OFA Thyroid Information
OFA Thyroid Database
What's the Big Deal About the Little Thyroid?
An expaneded article version of these notes is available in .pdf format here.