For all new members, please check out the thread New to the Forum? What to do and forum guidelines.
Hypothyroidism, Treatment, and Weight Loss
  • amtiamti
    Posts: 1066
    As many of you know, Sheba, my shiba foster was diagnosed with Hypothyroidism. The vet started her out on .8 levothyroxine twice a day when she was at 63 lbs. Her Total T4 was at 1.5 ug/dL which was borderline low, but a rather high dosage imho. A month later, she was down to 58 lbs and retested her T4, which was 3.5. Her dosage was lowered to .6 twice a day. After a month, we lowered it to .5 twice a day.

    I took Sheba to Petsmart to weigh her yesterday and she was at 53 lbs. I asked if her dosage needed to be lowered and was told by their tech that unless she was losing a lot of weight too soon, that the dosage was fine. From what I understood, the tech was telling me that if the dosage is too strong, Sheba would be losing weight quickly. If the dosage was not strong enough, she would not be losing any weight. Is there any truth to this? If that was true, wouldn't it be better to up her dosage since her health is in jeopardy? Or is the dosage too high already? On one hand, it makes since because giving too much would make the dog hyperthyroid, right? But if this was true, wouldn't it be a type of diet pill?

    Honestly, I did not want to dose her at all, if given a choice, because from what I have read about the meds, the body will eventually stop producing its own T3 and T4. I think it is past that time already for Shebe since she's been on the meds for 12 weeks. Has anyone stopped giving thyroid meds and still have a normal active dog? I guess one part of me hopes that one day, she'll be at an ideal weight where she won't need to be on meds. I can't seem to blow off the thought that maybe her weight gain contributed to her thyroid issues, and had she been at a normal weight all along, she would have never encountered hypothyroidism. If meds were stopped, what is the worse that could happen?

    Also, can I change from Levothyroxine to thyroxine with no problem? I can get thyroxine cheaper from my son's vet.
    Post edited by sunyata at 2013-10-01 16:21:38
  • redcattooredcattoo
    Posts: 1960
    Have you had a full panel done? Has the vet determined what is causing the thyroid dysfunction.

    It is my understanding that if a dog has hypothyroidism that they will be on meds for life, just like with human hypothryoidism. I believe the most common cause in dogs of hypothyroidism is the dogs own immune system attacking its own thyroid gland (similar to Hassimoto's Thyroiditis in humans) and in this case the gland gets destroyed by the immune system; hence, needing supplements for life.

    Weight is only one of the many symptoms of hypothyroidism, but weight is also impacted by exercise and diet so is not just as simple as treating hypothyroidism.

    Quite fankly I don't like or trust Banfield (Petsmart). In the thyroid testing thread someone suggested Hemopet.org to me because of Dr. Dodd's work with hypothyroidism in dogs (http://www.hemopet.org/about-us/welcome.html). If you haven't looked into having Hemopet run a full panel thyroid test, you may want to look into that. My vet charged me only $15 to draw and spin down the blood, the Hemopet test for T4, FT4, T3, FT3, and TgAA was only $85, and shipping since I overnighted it $30. Once they run the tests they also offer free support/consultation after so you could get any questions you had on the results answered.
  • sunyatasunyata
    Posts: 8429
    @amti - First off, I am going to change the title of this thread to correlate a bit more to what the topic is (thyroid treatment and weight loss), because otherwise, it might seem like just another hypothyroid thread.

    Second, I think what you are missing is that being hypothyroid is the cause of the weight gain, not the other way around. So even if Sheba gets to a normal weight, you will still need to treat.

    Let me tell you Bella's story from a weight perspective:
    During the middle of 2010 (she would have been 5-ish at the time), Bella started to gain weight even though her diet and exercise remained the same. Even after decreasing her food intake and upping her exercise, she continued to gain weight. She went from 24 pounds to 32 in about 8 months. In the early part of 2011 (February, I believe), she had her annual well visit with the vet where we decided that because of the weight gain and other symptoms that we should test her thyroid and see if anything was off. Well, her thyroid levels were just under the normal range, so we decided to put her on 0.3 mg of thyroxine twice a day.

    We retested in six weeks and her levels were stabilizing in the upper-lower level of normal (does that make sense? For example, if the normal range is 1.8-3.5, she was about 2.3). She had lost about half a pound. We kept her on this dose for six months and retested her in August 2011. During this time period, her weight dropped to 26 pounds (so six pounds lost) and her levels remained about the same as the previous test.

    Fast forward to October 2012: We retested and her levels were much higher and she had dropped quite a bit of weight (she was 22 pounds). We dropped her down to 0.3 mg once a day. She maintained the weight and her levels went back to normal range after six weeks.

    Fast forward to October 2013: She has (for the most part, we are dealing with some other health issues not thyroid related) stabilized her weight at a healthy 22 pounds and is still on the 0.3 mg once a day dose with consistent T3 and T4 levels.
    Bella 2Mountains 2Nola 2
    Casey, with Bella and Nola, hanging out in the mountains of Virginia.
    I Wander, I Ride
  • lindsaytlindsayt
    Posts: 4784
    That sounds like a nice weight loss curve.

    Hypothyroid is an autoimmune process in dogs, and once you are seeing symptoms, the thyroid is already basically non-functioning or nearly there. What causes this in Shibas? Low genetic diversity, vaccines, early spay/neutering, etc, we can't be sure, but these are the big offenders (from the literature).

    I would never just arbitrarily start or stop thyroid meds on my dog hoping that I can wean her off, or help her lose weight. It doesn't work that way. If I miss doses on my dog, I know she feels bad, she gets grumpy, and more reactive, and her weight fluctuates and her allergies flare up. Giving thyroid pills isn't a big deal.
    "Common sense isn't so common"
    photo c5d87957-61b6-48af-a440-4187cbfc861b_zps88ccdf88.jpg
  • amtiamti
    Posts: 1066
    Redcattoo, I don't trust them either. lol... but I'm stuck with them since that is what she came with. I'm lucky she came with it though because most fosters come with nothing. Banfield can only do a Total T4 in house and can't do a full panel.

    Sunyata and lindsayt, thank you for the explanation. I don't plan on stopping the meds for Sheba but do wonder if her dosage is too high, and am wondering a few other things about her.

    I have never heard that the meds being too strong can cause rapid weight loss, so that was my main question- if anyone else had heard that before. In one aspect, it does seem likely. People who are hyperthyroid have a problem gaining weight. If the meds are too strong, then would the dog be in an artificial hyperthyroid state, and thus lose a lot of weight quickly?

    I do understand that weight gain is one of the effects of hypothyroidism. However, in extreme cases of weight gain, could the weight gain lead to hypothyroidism? In other words, I'm wondering if major weight gain, such as in my foster, who was 65 pounds when I got her, could also be a cause of hypothyroidism. Maybe she didn't have hypothyroidism until her body doubled in size and her thyroid could no longer produce enough T4 and T3 for itself. I would assume, the thyroid can only produce so much T4 and T3. Shibas were not meant to be this big. If the body more than doubles its size, would that be too much for the thyroid? At what point can the thyroid no longer produce enough hormones for a body? And thus, hypothyroidism would become a problem? Maybe these are questions that should be asked to a professional such as Dr. Dobbs.

    Looking back at when I got Sheba, I wanted her thyroid checked asap because of her weight and aggression towards strangers. However, the person (the previous owner's neighbor) who watched her for almost 3 months a few months prior to me getting her said she was able to take off almost ten pounds with just daily walks and normal dog food. She said Sheba played with her dog. When she gave Sheba back to the previous owner, Sheba managed to gain all the weight back because she was no longer getting walks and probably given full time access to food. When I got her in early July, Sheba's coat was very pretty and she had no bald spots. She did have an ear infection in March, but that was all I know and she has not had one the entire time I've had her. And now that I know more about her, I am betting the aggression was due to her previous lifestyle of being left alone for years as well as being a bit depressed from bouncing from house to house with no where to call home. She did not eat a full meal for about three days after I got her. She no longer removes herself after a couple of pets and is finally getting used to being petted and getting hugs. I'm even able to brush her coat a few times before she walks away.

    I have missed a pill or two with Sheba and there really is no visible change in her attitude or behavior. She'll still go on walks and still comes when I call her. She is still pretty much in her own world, but I think it is from years of doing nothing but sleeping at home. Her previous owner, from what I was told, never took her out, never really walked her, and worked all day so she was left alone all day with no one to pet her, play with her, talk to her, etc...for a few years. She had a pretty sad life with no one to really share it with her. So I assume she spent her days eating and laying around, doing nothing. A few years of doing nothing will naturally lead to weight gain, and after a number of pounds gained, perhaps hypothyroidism set in. This happens in humans too. If someone gets too big, their body cannot handle it and all sorts of problems start happening. Couldn't it be the same for dogs?




    Post edited by amti at 2013-10-02 03:57:23
  • lindsaytlindsayt
    Posts: 4784
    The weight gain did not make her hypothyroid.
    "Common sense isn't so common"
    photo c5d87957-61b6-48af-a440-4187cbfc861b_zps88ccdf88.jpg
  • redcattooredcattoo
    Posts: 1960
    amti said:

    However, in extreme cases of weight gain, could the weight gain lead to hypothyroidism?



    No, weight gain does not cause hypothryoidism from all my understandings. Usually, the most common cause is the dogs own immune system attacking the thyroid (confirmed usually by a TgAA test). Also until the thyroid is almost 70% or more destroyed by the immune system you may not see the symptoms and the dog may fall in the normal test ranges.
  • amtiamti
    Posts: 1066
    I still wish I had waited a month or two to reevaluate her personality and retest after two months of a changed lifestyle and diet for the following reasons:

    1- I feel like my diagnosis of her behavior was not entirely correct given what I found out about her past life. I now don't feel like she was really aggressive, but just not used to people and other animals getting close to her or touching her, so she doesn't trust them. She would act like she is interested or friendly, but would snap at the last minute, when a dog or person would get too close. She is still like that after almost three months of meds, so that is something we are working on with treats and taking her out.

    2-Her lack of activity then could also reflect depression as well as lifestyle since she was left home all day alone and even when her previous owner was home, he did very little to play and socialize with her. Her owner was a hermit, and she became one too. Even now, she mostly sleeps. She is supposedly six years old, but I think she might be a little closer to seven. No one knows her birthday.

    3- The lady who watched Sheba for almost three months was able to drop almost ten pounds without meds. I thought hypothyroid dogs generally don't lose weight but can gain rather easily.

    4- Although the meds are simple to give and inexpensive, it is one more thing to add to her baggage. My son said yesterday that he thinks Sheba is a very good dog. And I agree, she has the potential to be a very good dog to someone willing to take her on and her issues. She's not only on meds forever, she gets seizures, will most likely have joint issues (she already walks a little bow legged at times), will always have baggy skin from her weight loss, is fearful of people getting too close to her, doesn't seem to like other dogs... I just worry she won't be adoptable with so many issues overshadowing her good qualities.
  • lindsaytlindsayt
    Posts: 4784
    You would be surprised. I promise you, there are people who want Shiba rescues with medical issues, who don't have other dogs. Best thing is to make her a public profile thru one of the big Shiba rescues, and go from there.
    "Common sense isn't so common"
    photo c5d87957-61b6-48af-a440-4187cbfc861b_zps88ccdf88.jpg
  • amtiamti
    Posts: 1066
    Thank you Lindsayt. That gives me hope. I really want her to have a good home. I told the rescue when I first got her to give me a few months to drop 20 pounds before putting her on their website because I wanted to start her off on a good note. She's down 12 pounds now so I feel her time to be listed will be in about two months, so I'm getting worried.
  • sunyatasunyata
    Posts: 8429
    @amti - Low thyroid function can also cause seizures. So perhaps by regulating her thyroid you are also helping to decrease or even stop the seizures.

    Also, loosing weight and changing Sheba's diet, while excellent for her overall well being, will not cause her thyroid to magically start working properly again.

    Even though YOUR diagnosis of Sheba's issues could have been a bit off, the blood test numbers do not lie. With Shibas, even if their numbers are in the range, but at the bottom of the range (low-normal), many vets will suggest treatment, especially if they are showing symptoms.

    Just relax, keep working towards getting her weight down and her socialized, and let the thyroid meds do their work. :)
    Bella 2Mountains 2Nola 2
    Casey, with Bella and Nola, hanging out in the mountains of Virginia.
    I Wander, I Ride
  • redcattooredcattoo
    Posts: 1960
    I second what @sunyata has said.

    I believe part of the reason thyroid doesn't get diagnosed properly a lot of times is also because like you are doing people start explaining away the symptoms. It happens with humans too. I guess I am more sensitive to not wanting to explain away everything as I know that is what happened to my own issue with hypothyroidism. I spent a lot of years explaining away a range of symptoms (from always being tired, to feeling depressed, to being irritable, to gaining weight easily, to dry skin/hair, ect ....) before anyone even suggested I test for thyroid issues. It wasn't until a real open honest discussion with my Ob-Gyn about something else that she asked if I had considered having my thyroid tested as what I was discussing was also a sign of thyroid issues. I ended up following her suggestion and found out I have Hassimoto's (my immune system was attacking and destroying my thyroid).

    So I guess what I am saying is when there are several things you are trying to explain away, and you know you have had a T4 test result indicate thyroid problems, it is probably best you treated it immediately.

    Also, I think not every symptom, even once on medication and back in acceptable test ranges, will magically resolve. In my case, while my Dr was shocked I was even functional when he saw my test results, we have tried over the course of several years 3 different medications. I am even now on a more controversial medication that provides T4 and T3. All the medications have all brought me to the test ranges that I requested we aim for (not just into range) and I still have most of the symptoms but just not as extreme (I am down to only needing 9 hrs or so of sleep instead of 10+, my mood is a little more level, and with concentrated effort I can maintain my weight even if losing it is still very hard).

    The only other different thing that may have given you more comfort that you were doing the right thing starting medication right away would have been if Banfield had done a full panel instead of just T4 so you could see the FT4, T3, FT3, and TgAA. At least then you would have confirmed if more indicators other than T4 showed a thyroid issue, especially the TgAA testing to know if it was an immune system issue that wouldn't reverse just by diet changes.

    At the end of the day from everything you describe, I believe starting the medication was the right thing to do in your case and that weight has nothing to do with causing the thyroid issue and that the thyroid issue is what caused the weight issue.
  • amtiamti
    Posts: 1066
    Thank you all for the reassurances. I do tend to overanalyze and start questioning myself when I think I could have prevented something. And you are right Redcattoo, about me trying to explain away the symptoms. At the time I tested her, I was pretty sure it was her inactive thyroid and letting doubt into my brain only makes a mess. But when her snappiness and sleepiness didn't really change much, I started wondering if she really did have an inactive thyroid since her count was at the low end, but not that bad. Banfield isn't able to do a whole panel and as you probably figured, they do the T4 in house too. It would have been wonderful to have the full panel.

    If regulating the thyroid helps seizures, I hope she no longer has them because even though her seizures aren't that bad, they are scary, for both her and me. She's had one almost every 5-6 weeks since I've known her history, so I've been watching her carefully. I'll keep my fingers crossed the meds help.
  • While thyroid problems can cause seizures, I would also say that my Shiba's seizures did not resolve from getting her thyroid level correct, so the seizures may be unrelated. If you're treating Sheba for thyroid issues and her thyroid levels are correct and she is still having seizures, then I would think that would NOT be the cause.

    It's really important to get the seizures under control too, because beyond being scary, they tend to get worse, and a bad one can cause permanent brain damage (if it goes on too long). My Shiba girl had to take thyroid meds AND phenobarbital for the seizures.
  • amtiamti
    Posts: 1066
    Well, as predicted, Sheba was due for another seizure and had one about 2 hours ago. I took her out to walk and she laid down, which she never did before. I squatted next to her when I realized she may be having a seizure and just pet her and spoke to her telling her it was going to be okay, when if fact, I was scared too. I had my phone flashlight on and made sure there were no snakes around, just in case it was a snakebite. Didn't see any snakes, so that was a slight relief. She may have laid there twitching a bit for a minute, maybe two... I didn't think of timing it, but it seemed like a long time. She crawled a little, maybe to walk, unsuccessfully. I just felt really bad for her. She never tried to bite me or cry and she just had a glazed look in her eyes for a few seconds. This was the first time I have been with her through an entire seizure. I usually see her right after the seizure, so it was good for me to see it. But I did wish I was in my own yard. I wasn't sure whether to carry her home or not if she didn't snap out of it. She wobbled a little at first and then was able to walk home. I tried to offer her water but she didn't take it. She did lick a little corn syrup though but did not show interest in eating anything. I was looking for honey, but saw the corn syrup and grabbed that instead. As far as her seizures being related to her thyroid issues, I am not sure. I only know that a lot of dogs with thyroid issues also get seizures.

    Shibamistress, I saw you posted about waiting on giving your Akita meds. I understand how you feel.
    Post edited by amti at 2013-10-05 00:15:40

Howdy, Stranger!

It looks like you're new here. If you want to get involved, click one of these buttons!

In this Discussion

Who's Online (4)