Older dogs aren’t the spry young pups they used to be. Every dog will reach a point where they begin to take life at a slower pace, trading energetic play time for long snoozes on the couch. However, pet parents must be able to tell the difference between low energy and lethargy. If your middle-aged dog experiences lethargy alongside symptoms like hair loss and weight gain, there’s a good chance they’re actually living with hypothyroidism.
Hypothyroidism occurs in dogs when the thyroid gland produces insufficient levels of the triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4) hormones. Low thyroid hormone production results in a slow metabolism, which is why dogs with hypothyroidism gain weight despite the owners’ attempts to restrict calorie intake.
Although hypothyroidism is a lifelong condition, pet parents can mitigate the effects of this thyroid disease by altering their furry companion’s diet. Speak with your vet about using these nutritional changes to reduce the effects of hypothyroidism on your dog’s health.
Fresh ingredients and nutritional meals
Feeding your dog a diet that’s rich in nutrients is step number one to supporting their thyroid. For some pets, home-cooked meals made with fresh ingredients are the best way to get a diverse range of nutrients. Cooking with whole foods eliminates artificial preservatives from your dog’s diet and avoids unhealthy fillers that often lead to nutritional deficiencies. Healthy options for home-cooked meals include steamed vegetables and lean proteins like chicken and turkey.
Dogs need healthy treats, too! Many pet owners provide healthy meals but forget to factor in snacks as part of the dog’s daily calorie intake. Blueberries, avocados and pumpkin puree make wonderful training tools and snacks for dogs with hypothyroidism.
However, many store-bought foods also contain the comprehensive range of nutrients your pet needs to stay healthy. You don’t have to cook at home in order to keep your dog healthy. It’s best to speak with your vet to determine what diet is right for your pet’s needs and/or to learn how to portion home-cooked meals appropriately if that’s the route you take.
Animal sources for lean proteins
Animal protein is the main source of energy for dogs. A diet that’s too high in fat and carbohydrates will hamper the metabolism, which makes symptoms of hypothyroidism even worse. Dogs with hypothyroidism need low-fat, lean proteins because they’re easy to digest. Protein sources like chicken and turkey are more easily absorbed and can boost your pup’s energy levels. In addition, amino acids from protein regulate the production of thyroid-stimulating hormones in the pituitary gland.
Omega-3 fatty acids also play a huge role in treating hypothyroidism. Healthy forms of fat are the building blocks for hair and will help your pup grow a thick, shiny coat. Many dogs suffering from hypothyroidism experience skin irritation, and fatty acids help reduce dandruff. Sources of omega-3 fatty acids include sardines, salmon, eggs and squash.
Nutrients to support a restricted diet
Iodine is necessary for proper thyroid function. Dogs with hypothyroidism commonly suffer from an iodine deficiency, so consider adding small amounts of iodine to your dog’s diet. This is especially important for dogs on a home-cooked diet. Consult a vet about proper dosage if your dog eats commercial food, because such products are already fortified with iodine.
Trace amounts of other minerals like selenium and zinc may also boost thyroid hormone levels. They speed up production by helping T4 transform into T3, which is then released into the bloodstream. Ashwagandha supplements have also been known to increase T3 and T4 production as well as lower thyroid-stimulating hormones.
Probiotics and fiber for the digestive tract
A healthy gut microbiome correlates to improved thyroid health. Probiotic supplements balance out the good and bad bacteria, which is essential for good digestion. Proper digestive health leads to better absorption of nutrients that directly support the thyroid gland. A low-carb diet further supports absorption because it will limit the inflammatory response along the intestinal wall.
Additionally, every dog needs fiber to move organic waste along. However, it’s especially important for those with hypothyroidism. Although vets recommend a low-carb diet, fiber can make carbohydrates easier to digest. This helps ramp up a sluggish metabolism. Pet parents feeding their dogs a home-cooked diet can build in more fiber with green vegetables like asparagus, broccoli, spinach, cabbage and green beans.
While there’s no cure for hypothyroidism, your dog can still live to the fullest by eating a healthy diet. A full range of vitamins and minerals is necessary alongside any other thyroid treatments prescribed by a veterinarian. Always create a home-cooked or restricted diet with help from your vet so you have the best chance of minimizing hypothyroid symptoms in your dog’s life.