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Mary Shomon

Do Pets Get Better Thyroid Care Than Some Humans?

By June 3, 2013

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In a recent segment on the public radio show The Animal House, veterinarian Dr. Gary Weitzman discussed how pets howling at night can sometimes be a warning sign of thyroid disorder, especially in cats.

Actually, while many of us are struggling with thyroid issues in our human families, the pet members of the family -- dogs are more prone to becoming hypothyroid, and cats are prone to hyperthyroidism -- may actually luck out when it comes to thyroid diagnosis and treatment.

I've written in the past about how some pets get better thyroid treatment than people. I discovered this with my late dog Belle, a Bichon Frise, who was being treated by a savvy holistic veterinarian for metastatic cancer. The vet said she routinely tested TSH and Free T3 in her pet patients. When she discovered that Belle was borderline hypothyroid, she then prescribed her medication of choice -- natural desiccated thyroid -- as well as vitamins and supplements. It definitely seemed to help Belle's energy.

The vet was surprised when I told her that there were many people out there struggling to get exactly the kind of thorough diagnosis and treatment that she was offering my dog. Not to mention the compassion and respect she showed her four-legged patients.

In some cases, animals are getting cutting-edge procedures and treatments not available to people. For example, researchers have been able to successfully transplant thyroid glands in rabbits, but we are still a long way before this becomes a viable treatment for people.

When it comes to our pets, some of the most cutting-edge medical treatments are already being offered regularly by veterinarians. This brings to mind my friend, Julia Szabo -- known as the Pet Reporter, a journalist and health editor of the online community Dogster. Julia has spent years covering animal health issues and reporting on her own dogs' health hurdles. Julia's memoir, "Medicine Dog" (coming in the spring of 2014 from Lyons Press) chronicles her surprise upon learning that veterinary medicine is far ahead of human medicine in several key fields, particularly stem cell regeneration therapy. Her book tells the story of her personal quest "to be treated like a dog" by a physician as competent and caring as her vet, and with cutting-edge stem cell therapies that have been available to dogs -- including two of Julia's own, Sam the pit bull and Sheba the border collie -- for five years, and to horses since 2003. Meanwhile, most people still have to travel overseas to receive similar treatments, which for humans, involve adult stem cells.

Let's hope that our doctors -- and in particular, the practitioners who are diagnosing and treating thyroid disease -- might learn from some of the more cutting-edge approaches being offered to our furry friends.

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June 3, 2013 at 10:41 pm
(1) Anna says:

So, I have Hashimoto’s. I have a 10-year-old chocolate lab mix. I noticed her fur was getting to be nearly non-existent on her tail. Her vet had mentioned possible thyroid issues a couple of years back, but this past winter I insisted that my dog get tested for thyroid issues because her fur was almost gone, she was stiff, she was overweight, she was depressed, etc. Sure enough, her tests came positive for idiopathic hypothyroidism. Now she gets .4 mg Soloxine two times a day! And she is like a new dog! She has fluffy, thick, luscious fur, is running around, is happy, and does not act her age! She also went from 77 lbs to 60 lbs, her fighting weight. Looking back, I realize she’s been hypothyroid most of her life. The last time she had thick fur was when she was a puppy.

I sure wish I could be more like my dog! I’m actually jealous of my dog! I was sitting here thinking that it’s not fair that my dog get treated better than I do. I was actually thinking about this issue, that it appears that pets are treated better than their owners. I’m glad to see that I’m not the only one with these thoughts.

June 4, 2013 at 8:00 am
(2) Marsha says:

After 16 years as a vet assistant, I can say that I think veterinarians are much better diagnosticians than physicians.

Because their patients can’t talk, they need to be sharp at noticing subtle changes. They truly practice functional medicine. I have watched animal patients get more thorough work ups than I ever did when I was nearly left to die before getting my hypothyroidism diagnosed.

Oh yeah, our pets have it much better in the medical world. But I must give credit where it’s due—my current doctors are wonderful and one truly saved my life, BUT it took me years to find them.

June 4, 2013 at 9:52 am
(3) Laura says:

It’s consisted ethical to do experimental stuff like stem cells on animals. After they do enough animal studies, they’ll start with humans. With the research guidelines and rules, I’m not surprised by this. There are also no ins companies involved or it would be complicated for the animals too. We need to be willing to spend our money on our care and quit expecting the ins to pay. It’s then that you can get the best care.

June 4, 2013 at 10:35 am
(4) Gladys says:

My cat started to lose weight and was hungry all the time. She looked terrible and was meowing all the time. I took her to the vet and he did blood tests and examined her. Within 2days she was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism and on meds – a few months later and she is doing really well! It has taken me years!!! Oh – and they don’t bother with TSH at the vet either!

June 4, 2013 at 11:40 am
(5) Linda S. says:

We should be demanding better treatment such as regenerative medicine. What would all of us be like with a new thyroid? Think about it. Researchers in regenerative medicine are not doing much if anything for humans in trying to develop new thyroids. We could through our activism bring this to the spotlight and get something accomplished. All we have now are drugs that, in my case, make me feel bad. Think what breast cancer research has accomplished. Women need to stand up for themselves! My current doctor has just given me the news that he is going to cut down my use of time-release T3 because it may affect my bones although he knows it’s the only thing that makes me feel better. I am looking for a new doctor in the L.A. area. Does anyone have a recommendation?

June 4, 2013 at 1:05 pm
(6) Brenda says:

To Linda,
I go to Dr. Michael Morris in San Bernadino. He works with you on how you feel, not lab tests. I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s last October after 17 years of being on Synthroid and Armour. The doctor put me on T3 for a month and then switched me back to T4/T3 combo. The ten pounds I lost while on the T3 came back almost immediately and my blood pressure was staying high. That is when I found Dr. Morris who specializes in T3 only therapy. In the month with Dr. Morris, I have lost the ten pounds again and my blood pressure is at a constant 123/71. I have even started back to exercise with energy.

You can find him at: http://www.weightdoc.net/
Good luck,

June 4, 2013 at 5:37 pm
(7) Roberta Greenberg says:

Linda- my doc at USC gave me the same news…cut down t3 to almost nothing, because of risks to bones. What about risk to quality of life??? How about osteo monitoring, calcium, weight bearing exercise, etc., instead of taking away our necessary medicine? He spoke to me as if I were drug-seeking.
I’ll be going back to the Holtorf Clinic. It’s expensive, but they kept me functional.

June 4, 2013 at 7:28 pm
(8) colleen says:

I have hypothroidism, but 3 years ago my dach/chi mix was diagnosed with hypothyroidism, she is on thyridozin(?) once a day, she has lost 3 1/2 pds in the last year. she is 13 and her energy level has been higher than when she was 1, our vet is very caring, he even checked her for celieas diesease for me, she is on a gluten free diet , along with my self and my husband, even the gluten free diet for dogs is easier than for humans. I know she gets better care than I do. she gets a blood draw and the vet calls the next morning of what to do. me it takes 3-4 days and then i still have a hard time getting the pres. called in. I am thankful for my vet and tell him all the time wish he was my doctor too. have your pets checked even if the vet doesn’t think it needs to be done it is a good idea. have a blessed day.

June 5, 2013 at 1:35 am
(9) ReginainBonn says:

Fascinating reading! Veterinary medicine education in Germany is considered the most demanding medical specialization. Your article is certainly proof that vets are better diagnosticians. Ah…for a dog’s life ….

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