The heavy truth about unexpected weight gain in dogs


Dear Sassy,

My dog has just been diagnosed with a low thyroid and is currently on medicine.
Is there anything that I can do to make sure he stays healthy besides just giving him his med?

Stubbie’s Mom

Dear Stubbie’s Mom,

Hypothyroidism (low thyroid) is the most common endocrine (hormonal) disease of dogs. Cats may also develop low thyroid, but it is rare. Low thyroid conditions affect both male and female dogs equally. Hypothyroidism generally develops in middle aged or elderly dogs.

All dog breeds, including mixed breeds, can suffer from Hypothyroidism, but the 10 breeds most susceptible include: Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers, Dachshunds, Boxers, Cocker Spaniels, Greyhounds, English Bulldogs, Great Danes, and Doberman Pinschers. image

“The thyroid gland consists of two lobes located at the base of the neck. This gland produces thyroxine, a hormone that regulates the body’s metabolic rate, that is the rate at which it burns calories…” According to Dr. Roger Welton , Veterinarian and CEO of the veterinary advice and health management website “Most cases of hypothyroidism stem from the dog’s own immune system attacking thyroid gland tissue… the gland fails to produce enough of the hormone.”

“Active thyroid hormone serves as a sort of a volume dial for metabolism. Since virtually every cell in the body can be affected by reduced levels of thyroid hormone, it is not surprising that reduced levels of thyroid hormone lead to symptoms in multiple body systems,” as reported by

If your dog’s food intake has not increased and he or she is gaining weight, this could be the first sign of low thyroid. When thyroid levels are low, hair growth thins over the lumbar area equally on both sides. Hair loss may begin on the tail and give the tail a “rat-like” appearance. The pet’s hair coat often becomes lack luster with thickened or flaky skin. The coat is sometimes oily and will have an unpleasant odor. Brittle toenails are also common. Your dog may also seem more tired or listless. You may also notice your dog begin to pant heavily with every exertion.

“In addition to the dog’s overall appearance, hypothyroidism can affect the pet’s mental state, resulting in depression and apathy,” explains Dr. Audrey Cook, clinical associate professor at Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. “Other signs of the disease include sensitivity to the cold, muscle weakness, problems with nerve function, and persistent fatigue. Problems such as chronic skin or ear infections may also be a sign of hypothyroidism.”


Hypothyroidism is genetic and cannot be prevented. Fortunately, it is easy to treat. Thyroid hormone (T4) medication is available in inexpensive tablet form. Improvement should be noticed within the first couple of weeks. Once steady state levels have been achieved, the Thyroid level should be checked once every 6 months.

Sassy says that you can help Stubbie by keeping your veterinarian informed of changes in Stubbie’s activity level and behavior. Signs of agitation, excessive thirst, diarrhea and other changes in behavior may mean that the dose needs to be adjusted. It’s also important to keep Stubbie on his medication even when he seems fine. Hypothyroidism is a chronic condition which means he will need to receive treatment for the rest of his life. He will also need periodic checks on thyroid levels to make sure the dose is on-target, but these tests are simple and inexpensive. Your veterinarian will tell you when to bring Stubbie in for a recheck.

Sassy gives advice to dogs and their people, with the help of her person, Martha Caster Lloyd. Martha owns a Pet Sitting and Cage Free Grooming Service in Sachse (

Email questions to Sassy at .


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Sassy would like to introduce you to her new friend Angel


Angel is a cat who came to the Rowlett Animal Shelter pregnant. She was a great mom to her babies. We are now hoping she can find a great home with a loving family. She is very sweet and affectionate. She has been at the shelter since March! Her time is running out.

This animal has been tested negative for Feline Aids/Leukemia, started on heartworm prevention Revolution, given the RCPC combo, Bordatella and dewormer. Adoption fees are $30 for Rowlett residents – $25 for non-residents – $5 for seniors 65 and over. Click on Rowlett Animal Shelter for adoption details and directions.

If you are interested in meeting Angel, visit the Rowlett Animal Shelter, 4402 Industrial St, Rowlett, TX. 75088 Phone: 972-412-6219.