Skip to content

Healthy Dogs

Font Size

Hypothyroidism in Dogs

The thyroid gland is in the neck makes a hormone called thyroxine that controls metabolism (the process of turning food into fuel). With hypothyroidism, the gland doesn’t make enough of that hormone.

It’s a common disease in dogs. It affects all breeds, but it is often found in golden retrievers, Doberman pinchers, Irish setters, dachshunds, boxers, and cocker spaniels. It usually happens in middle-aged dogs (ages 4 to 10) of medium to large breeds. Neutered males and spayed females also have a higher risk, but vets are unsure why.

In most cases of hypothyroidism, your dog’s immune system attacks his thyroid. Other causes are the shrinking of his thyroid and, although rare, a tumor. No matter the cause, symptoms and treatments are the same.


The first sign is hair loss, usually on your dog’s trunk, back of the rear legs, and tail. His coat will be dull and thin, his skin flaky, but not itchy or red (which is usually tied to fleas or an allergic reaction). He may also have black patches of skin. This is followed by weight gain, muscle loss, sluggishness, a slowed heart rate, toenail and ear infections, and intolerance to cold. It’s not widespread, but hypothyroidism is also linked to seizures, heart and blood vessel problems, and infertility.

For a diagnosis, your vet will do a series of blood tests.


The good news is this disease isn’t life-threatening. Plus, it’s fairly easy and inexpensive to treat. Your dog will have to take oral drugs daily for the rest of his life. The drug is a manmade hormone called levothyroxine or L-thyroxine. Doses are specific to each dog.

Left untreated, the disease will affect your dog’s quality of life.

WebMD Veterinary Reference

Reviewed by Amy Flowers, DVM on November 18, 2014

Today on WebMD

bulldog in party hat
Breeds with longevity
Doberman Pinscher Clipped Ears
The facts about ear cropping and tail docking.
dog with duck in mouth
Which are considered smartest?
boxer dog
What are their health issues?
Pit bull looking up
Pets: Is My Dog Normal
Dog scratching behind ear
dog catching frisbee
Dog Breed RMQ
Lady owner feeding dog
bulldog in party hat

Special Sections