Q&A with Fred – Thyroid concerns in Labs
I have a very serious problem occurring with one of my Labs. I came across your article “Thyroid Problems and Suggestions on Dealing with Them” this evening. It had some refreshingly different points of view and pieces of information. So, I am turning to you in the hope of receiving some useful help and advice.
Watson will turn 8 in February. He is an AKC Master Hunter and qualified for the 2008 Master National in June of that year. Shortly thereafter, his work basically fell apart for no apparent reason. He finally was diagnosed with negligible T4 in April and has been on Soloxine for the past eight months. I quickly discovered Dr. Dodds and Hemopet has done most of the bloodwork, including a full thyroid panel along with a full blood analysis.
Watson’s work has improved somewhat but is way below par. He has not passed a Master test since I became aware he had a health problem in July 2008. His T4 level has increased, but was only XX, per his latest blood test, drawn 11/30/09.
Watson is out of my breeding. I also kept one female littermate. Ladybug had her first bloodtest shortly after I persuaded my local vet (I’ve since switched) to perform Watson’s first ever bloodtest. She was found to be deficient in T4, but it was not serious, and she has responded just fine to Soloxine. However, I have not achieved nearly the success competitively with the female that I have with Watson, quite possibly due to my belief that she had hormonal/thyroid issues from a very young age that were not resolved until this past year, thanks to the medication.
The present need is to resurrect Watson’s career before age and other factors continue to cause decline. He is my first and only Master Hunter thus far. The annual Master National rotates among four quadrants of the country. We drove from California to Minnesota in October 2008, then bombed out on the first day of the eight-day event. This year, the event is in Corning, California, at MY hunt club, only about an hour from my home. I would be much more likely to retire Watson from competition if this were not the situation or if I had an up-and-coming puppy, which I do not. Further, it was and remains my desire to breed Watson. There has been a lot of interest in him and it would be one way to recoup some of my considerable hunt test and veterinary expenses. Dr. Dodds sees no ethical issues in putting Watson out to stud provided the bitches are thyroid-clear. First though, I would have to resolve his own thyroid issue.
Dr. Dodds has no further recommendations on that. Following Watson’s last blood test, she recommended that he receive good mineral supplementation; however, I am concerned about over-supplementing him. I feed him Purina Pro Plan Performance, which already has a lot of elements in it. She was not specific as to how much of what she thinks he should have. She mentioned only selenium, and my reading on it so far has me baffled as to what amount might be optimal. If blood levels seem to rise when there is a selenium deficiency; then, it seems to me that the converse would be true. If correct, that would mean Watson’s is getting too much selenium.
With my local vet’s permission, I have tried upping Watson’s dosage of Soloxine. That seemed to worsen the situation, and I dropped him back down to 0.8 mg, 2x/day.
About a month ago, I also began administering Anipryl to Watson. Watson’s sire passed away this past July, at age 15. Both sire and dam were my dogs. The momma died in May, at age 12, after a brief fight with lymphoma. I had the sire on Anipryl for his last year and a half, and was very pleased with its results. It suddenly occurred to me one day that the symptoms of Watson’s supposed hypothyroidism are exactly consistent with Doggie Dementia; so, I figured, why not treat it as if it is Doggie Dementia? He is the only dog I’ve ever heard of who has not responded well to Soloxine, and I felt I had to compensate for that somehow.
It seems to me that Watson is responding well to the Anipryl, and it also is possible, according to my research, that Watson’s mental decline could be due to Doggie Dementia anyway. Most articles state that it tends to begin around age 6 in large breeds. He is a Lab and a rather large one, at 96 pounds. Additionally, it is more likely to be noticed in earlier stages in performance dogs with vigilant owners.
Nobody seems to know what to do about a dog not responding sufficiently to thyroxine. It doesn’t do me any good to hear about how successful it is virtually in every other case but my own. You state in your article, “One of the lessons I have learned is that, in the best treatment of hypothyroidism, there is a range of results from barely perceptible to nearly miraculous.” I was very pleased to see that remark. Apparently, everyone else has had stellar results, hasn’t learned or has some other problem.
I know I could try different brands, ground natural glands, T3, different dogfood, nutritional supplements, and perhaps, as you might say, pixie dust. The problem is, as you wisely pointed out, various claims and counterclaims come into favor and fall into disfavor on an ongoing basis. I don’t really have a handle on why my dog is messed up; so, it seems to me that it would be relatively easy to make matters worse, since it sure has been impossible so far to make them significantly better.
Hence, I need help. I am willing to incur a reasonable degree of risk while experimenting with the variables; however, I need some logical recommendations to follow.
Can you, will you, please help me?
Joule: If the thyroid is not regulated or functioning properly or ideally, scentwork suffers. This happens in police dogs, SAR dogs, hunting hounds, etc. I can well imagine that other senses suffer a drop in acuity as well. Unfortunately, the balancing act to restore fairly normal hormonal function is very difficult to achieve. It’s a moving target. You may have some success by experimenting with levels of Soloxine. There is no way of predicting outcome, because organisms do not react like relatively simple inorganic chemistry reactions or experiments in physics, let alone mathematical equations. There are too many interactions and variables in a biochemical situation that negatively influence predictability. Therefore, it is highly unlikely that you will regain optimum performance.
You are right in studying everything that Jean Dodds has to say on this matter. She has long been a cogent and sensible voice for dogs and dog owners’ concerns. If she has some studies showing optimum and risky levels of selenium, let me know where I might be able to read them. While I did not save hard copies, I remember reading long ago about the dangers of over-supplementation with selenium (I suppose one could wade through the tons of stuff on Internet, but I’m old-fashioned and have not the time to do that). I do know from my ancient work in chem. & biochem. etc. that mineral supplementation can very easily be carried too far by dog owners. Years ago, a host of orthopedic disorders were exacerbated by food companies trying to outdo each other in calcium levels. Just as these days, they are hurting dogs by competing for the High-Protein King position. Dog food companies are all about profit and market share, not necessarily about what’s best for Fido. Personally, for myself and my older males, I use selenium tablets (100 micrograms for me, 50 mcg for my GSD) to supplement natural food sources. This is because the little extra dietary Se seems to ward off or control prostate enlargement. I don’t know why it would have any effect on gundog or retriever work.
I typed in “Thyroid problems Fred Lanting” in the Google search engine, and found that several websites carry my articles. I have not checked to see which have the most recent versions (had to change my e-mail address a few years ago)…
I think the Google listing gives the most-looked-at sites first. Which one led you to e-mailing me? The one that is in 2 parts and is called www.thedogplace.org/Articles/DogCare/09042-Thyroid-2_Lanting.asp – is a good one, since it is the most recently updated, besides the SiriusDog site piece.
Keep experimenting with levels, don’t go to extremes, and let us know if you have any success.