Weight gain isn’t something pet parents notice right away. One day, you might look at your dog from a certain angle and realize they’re looking a bit chubby. Owners are quick to dismiss the chubbiness as a result of too many treats and not enough play time. While this is true for some dogs, other dogs could be struggling with their weight due to a condition called hypothyroidism.
Keep reading to see if an under-active thyroid gland is to blame for your chubby pup!
Rule out other causes of obesity first
Not all overweight or obese dogs have hypothyroidism. Weight gain could easily be attributed to consuming too many calories or the wrong type of food. Your vet will want to assess your dog’s dietary habits before concluding that hypothyroidism is what’s causing their weight gain.
Some pet parents believe their senior dog has hypothyroidism when the real problem is they’re eating the wrong kibble. Young pups need more calories because they’re still growing. Feeding puppy food to an older dog can cause them to pack on the pounds, even if you serve them the recommended portion size.
Many people also forget to factor snacks and treats into their dog’s daily caloric intake. Controlling portions at meal times won’t let them maintain a healthy weight if your dog is used to grazing throughout the day. And remember, you might not be the only person doling out treats. It’s possible that others in your household have been slipping food scraps to the pup without your knowledge. All those extra calories really start to add up!
Why hypothyroidism causes weight gain
Let’s say you feed your senior pup the right kibble, limit their portion sizes and keep treats to a minimum. If they’re still gaining weight, your vet can run some tests to determine if your senior dog has hypothyroidism.
Hypothyroidism means the dog has an under-active thyroid gland. The gland releases hormones that regulate all sorts of bodily functions including heart rate, development and metabolism. When the thyroid gland is under-active, it’s producing abnormally low hormone levels. Organs that depend on thyroid hormones can’t function properly when a dog has hypothyroidism.
Thyroid hormones have a direct impact on your dog’s metabolism. The metabolism is responsible for breaking down food particles and burning them as a source of energy. A healthy metabolism helps maintain a consistent weight because the dog uses calories before they’re stored away as fat. In other words, there’s a good balance between calories in and calories out.
Dogs with hypothyroidism have a much slower metabolic rate. Their bodies aren’t able to keep up with the number of calories they’re consuming. Hypothyroidism can lead to excessive weight gain, even if a pet parent feeds their dog a healthy diet and restricts portion sizes. If exercise and cutting back on calories doesn’t shed the pounds, then hypothyroidism is most likely to blame.
Symptoms of hypothyroidism in senior dogs
Excessive weight gain isn’t the only telltale sign of hypothyroidism. Dogs with an under-active thyroid gland could present a combination of several other symptoms. Keeping track of your dog’s symptoms can help the vet come up with a more accurate diagnosis.
Tell your vet if you observe any of the following:
- Decrease in appetite
- Lethargy and reluctance to play
- Thinning coat that’s dull and dry
- Slower heart rate
- Sensitive to cold temperatures
- Recurring skin and ear infections
- Thick or darkly pigmented skin
Treatment options for your pup
There’s no cure for hypothyroidism, but the condition is very treatable. Pet parents can prevent extra weight gain by incorporating regular exercise into the dog’s everyday routine. Dogs with hypothyroidism should also be put on a restricted, low-fat diet that’s rich in essential vitamins and minerals. Speak with a vet to learn which type of food is best for your senior pup.
However, dieting and exercise alone won’t reverse the effects of hypothyroidism. Vets usually treat hypothyroidism with hormone therapy. This provides the body with adequate thyroid hormone levels in order to stabilize your dog’s metabolic rate. Over time, hormone therapy can return your dog to a healthy weight. Pet parents typically administer this treatment at home with a daily oral capsule that’s mixed in with the dog’s food.
Hypothyroidism isn’t the end of the world for your furry friend. Exercise, dieting and hormone therapy work in tandem to give dogs with hypothyroidism a normal life. Some pups struggle with losing weight, but that’s okay. It’s nothing a little bit of proper care can’t fix!