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.