Health: Hypothyroidism

By Jennifer Stoeckl, MAT - Dire Wolf Project CEO, Oct. 19, 2020
Toodles (aka: Angel, Boss/Pearl)

Recently, I was able to take Toodles (aka: Angel, Boss/Pearl) in to the veterinarian in order to get a thyroid test because she had all of the symptoms of hypothyroidism and I feared the worst for her. She is now 3 years old and has been showing these symptoms for a few months now, but all of us held out hope that we were wrong. It turned out that the blood test revealed that her TT4 count was so low that it didn’t even register on the scale! This is completely unprecedented.

As many of you know, Toodles was scheduled for breeding, pending the results of this test. Since she has developed hypothyroidism to the degree that it appears her thyroid is completely non-functional, she will no longer be bred, she will be spayed, her line will be stricken from the breed, and she will finally be able to be placed in her forever home.

An interesting thing to note is that Toodles was the only dog kept for breeding from the Boss/ Pearl combination. This news will now effectively end Pearl’s contribution from the breed.

blood test hypothyroidism

With Toodles’s hypothyroidism diagnosis, the American Alsatian dog breed now has a 2.8% reported occurrence rate for this disease over the last 7 years. (I have to update the health page to reflect this.) This is by far the most prominent health issue in the breed at this time. I will lay out the symptoms of the disease so that you can be aware of them in case your dog shows any of these signs.

First of all, every American Alsatian dog with the disease has developed the symptoms anywhere from 2 - 3 years old. It affects both male and female. The first thing that happens is the dog’s metabolism begins to slow and weight gain occurs despite the fact that they have not increased their food intake. Along with this, inflammation begins to appear and the dog loses a significant amount of hair, the most prominent being the almost complete loss of hair on the tail, especially around the tail gland. The skin becomes dull, dry, and cracked and turns a darker pigmentation. The skin almost feels like thick, rough elephant skin instead of soft and pliable. A cold intolerance can set in, as well, and the dog may be more prone to feeling chilled. Also, a slow, unmotivated almost lethargic attitude about life develops.

If you see any of these symptoms, especially around 2-3 years old, please get a blood test and specifically ask your vet to check the TT4 count. I paid $185 for the test plus the cost of a regular vet visit. You can also send the results to Hemopet for analysis. Dr. Dobbs is the leading expert of hypothyroidism in the canine and she has been very kind to speak with me about her knowledge when I inquired.

Toodles was prescribed levothyroxine, a hormone replacement therapy that will provide the hormone, thyroxine, that she is missing because her thyroid gland appears to not be functioning. This medication comes in a small pill that is given once a day for life. It costs under $25 a month and is regulated by the dog’s weight and how much is needed for the dog to have the adequate amount of the thyroxine hormone in the body to alleviate the symptoms of unwellness.

In just a few days after regularly receiving this medication, Toodles will begin to regrow her hair and her body will decrease any inflammation and shed the excess weight. She will begin to liven up emotionally and her skin will start to rejuvenate as her ability to move better in her body will return. I am so happy that Toodles now has what she needs to feel well and live her life free from the symptoms holding her back from really being herself.

Toodles is a very special soul. She is sweet and gentle with a caring kindness that we often see from the dog in our breed. She is attentive to people and understands when they are feeling sad or need support in some way. She has also been trained by our own DireWolf Guardians head trainer, Shawna Davies, and knows English very well. She is easy going and equally loves those in her immediate family as well as those wh she doesn’t know as well. For this reason, she would do well as a therapy dog and Lois considered her for this role. However, due to her size and ever stable structure, Lois chose a life for Toodles where she can help one person in a special mission. She will now live out her days with Sandra Gardner, who desperately needs her to help with the days when she feels much less capable. Living alone and wanting to be independent, Sandra will now be able to go out in town much more readily and securely than she could before. Toodles has already transitioned perfectly and is settling into her new life with Miss Cindy Sue a Southern Romance (Skipper/Anastasia) and her non-AA sister, Nikita. I am sure we will all be blessed to hear about her adventures as she continues to be the beautiful soul we know her to be. Miss Cindy Sue will undoubtedly have a thing or two to say about Toodles arrival, too.

Angel long hair standing

Angel (no longer called Toodles) in her new coat after medication

Thank you all for loving these magnificent dogs and for your commitment to improved health and longevity for our beloved canine friends.

Much love to you all as we move forward in the breed from here.

We would like to send you a free gift for spending some time with us at the Dire Wolf Project.

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Jennifer Stoeckl is the co-founder of the Dire Wolf Project, founder of the DireWolf Guardians American Dirus Dog Training Program, and owner/operator of DireWolf Dogs of Vallecito. She lives in the beautiful inland northwest among the Ponderosa pine forests with her pack of American Dirus dogs.