It’s probably normal for pets to experience an internal veterinary medicine condition once in their life. But if they suddenly start to put on weight, it could signify a deeper issue. One potential cause of unexplained weight gain in pets is an underactive thyroid or hypothyroidism.
What Is Hypothyroidism?
Like humans, animals have a thyroid gland that produces hormones to help regulate their body’s metabolism. When the thyroid doesn’t produce enough of these hormones, it leads to hypothyroidism. As a result, the body’s metabolism slows down and causes a number of different symptoms.
The most common hypothyroidism symptom is weight gain. Pets with this condition may have a ravenous appetite but still gain weight. This is because their metabolism has slowed down, and they’re unable to burn off calories as efficiently as they used to.
Other symptoms include:
- Cold intolerance
- Muscle weakness
- Joint pain
- Brittle hair or hair loss
While hypothyroidism is common in dogs, it rarely occurs in cats. It usually affects middle-aged or older dogs, although any dog’s age, breed, or gender can develop the condition.
What Causes Hypothyroidism?
A few different things can cause a pet’s thyroid gland to stop working properly. One potential cause is an autoimmune disease called lymphocytic thyroiditis, dogs’ most common cause of hypothyroidism. It occurs when the body’s immune system attacks the thyroid gland.
Other potential causes include:
- Iodine deficiency
- Certain medications
If your pet has been gaining weight unexpectedly, make an appointment with your veterinarian. They will ask about your pet’s medical history and symptoms and perform a physical examination.
Your veterinarian may also recommend some blood tests to check for hypothyroidism. These tests measure the levels of thyroid hormones in the blood and can help confirm a diagnosis. Sometimes, they may also recommend a thyroid scan. This is a type of imaging test that can help identify any problems with the thyroid gland.
How Is Hypothyroidism Treated?
While hypothyroidism doesn’t have a cure, it is usually treated with daily medication. The specific kind and dosage will be determined by your veterinarian based on your pet’s situation. In most cases, pets will need to take medication for the rest of their life.
In some cases, the underlying cause of hypothyroidism can be treated. For example, if an infection is causing the condition, it can be treated with antibiotics. If your pet has a tumor, you may need a veterinary surgeon for surgery.
How to Manage Weight Gain in Pet Hypothyroidism
If your pet has hypothyroidism, you can do a few things to help them manage their weight, including:
1. Healthy, High-Quality Food
Ensure they eat high-quality pet food appropriate for their life and activity levels. You may ask your vet which is the right food for your pet. Be aware of sugar, which can be found in some pet foods and treats.
Remember that sugar can contribute to weight gain, so avoid giving your sugary pet snacks. This can also cause dental diseases and need more comprehensive dental care. See this dog or cat dental care in Louisa if you’re nearby and require pet dental services.
2. Regulate Their Food Intake
Pets with hypothyroidism may have a ravenous appetite but still gain weight. It’s important to regulate their food intake and not free-feed them. This means that you should measure out their food for each meal instead of leaving a bowl of food out all day.
Your veterinarian can tell you how much food your pet needs based on weight, activity level, and other factors.
Regular exercise is essential for all pets, but it’s especially important for those with hypothyroidism. Exercise helps boost metabolism and can help pets maintain a healthy weight. They may need to start slowly if they’re not used to being active. Once they get in better shape, you can gradually increase the amount.
4. Follow Your Vet’s Recommendations
Follow your veterinarian’s recommendations for treatment. This will usually involve giving your daily pet medication, and you must follow as directed and not skip any doses.
Keep in Mind
While weight gain is a common symptom of hypothyroidism, it can also be caused by several other conditions. If your pet is gaining weight unexpectedly, make an appointment with your veterinarian to find out the cause. Most pets with this condition can live a normal, healthy life with treatment.