Pet Corner: Herbal Help for Thyroid Health

| July/August 2003

  • Photo courtesy of N. Anderson

Thyroid disease has become a major pet-health concern. For the past decade or so, veterinarians across the country have reported increasing numbers of thyroid disease in many pet species, especially in cats and dogs. According to CJ Puotinen's The Encyclopedia of Natural Pet Care (Keats, 1998), many holistic veterinarians blame this increase on the frequent use of combination vaccines, commercial pet foods and cortisone drugs.

For all the problems it can cause, the thyroid gland doesn’t look like much. It’s a tiny, two-lobed, bean-shaped gland located in an animal’s neck. Belying its puny size is the thyroid’s enormous potential to either enhance or hinder the health and well-being of nearly every cell in the body.

Thyroxin, the hormone produced by the thyroid, is the body’s prime energizer: it enhances cellular reactions and increases oxygen consumption in each of the trillions of cells located in all parts of the body. Unfortunately, a pet’s thyroid is susceptible to myriad outside influences that affect its ability to function properly, and a diseased thyroid gland produces abnormal amounts of thyroxin (either too little or too much). When the thyroid has run amok, a pet can have any number of symptoms, which can vary in intensity from mild to profound.

Thyroid disease typically occurs differently in cats and dogs. In dogs, thyroid disease is usually hypothyroid (too little thyroxin); cats typically have hyperthyroidism (too much thyroxin). In either case, I treat these as imbalances of the thyroid gland, and I try to holistically support the thyroid and the other major body systems that are likely affected.

The good news is that my results using holistic medicines (herbs, acupuncture, homeopathy and nutrition) have been at least as rewarding (and generally far better) than back in the days when I was still using Western medicines.

Symptoms of Hypothyroidism

Although hypothyroidism can be seen in all animals, it’s most common in middle-aged (4- to 10-year-old) mid- to large-sized dogs.

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