Unexplained Weight Gain In Dogs: Is Your Dog Struggling with Weight in spite of Diet and Exercise? Cookie Is Hypothyroid

I’ve been struggling with Cookie’s weight for about two years now.

Cookie spends at least three hours outside every day, doing what she loves – hunting for critters. If that is not being active, I don’t know what is.

Ever since she started “filling in” I’ve been watching what she eats. Over time, I’ve been giving fewer and fewer calories while Cookies weight was just above what I wanted it to be. She’d lose a bit, then she’d gain it back. Given her musculoskeletal challenges, I wanted her below optimal but couldn’t get her there.

Her present vet was happy with her body condition, but I wasn’t. So I kept trying, to no avail.

Unexplained Weight Gain In Dogs: Is Your Dog Struggling with Weight in spite of Diet and Exercise? Cookie Is Hypothyroid

For the past year, Cookie was getting barely above her resting energy requirement (RER).

I calculated what her RER should be, started a spreadsheet where I entered the caloric value of everything that entered her mouth, including any oils and other supplements. Well, except the spoils of her hunting but seriously, how many calories could the odd field mouse add? (30 – 35 calories, btw, if you wanted to know.)

This has gone on and on with some minor successes but basically being stuck.

By the time of her wellness exam at the beginning of this year, she lost 3 kg. That was some success, but I felt that given how little she eats and how active she is, she should be as skinny as a rail, and she was not. I brought up testing thyroid function.

It wasn’t the first time thyroid was on my mind, and not the last.

We tested, she was within the lower half of the normal range … the range is pretty damn broad, but with numbers as those I didn’t have a good argument.

Early this fall, Cookie was due for her Rabies booster. The clinic automatically does a wellness exam with it, which is fine; I even requested a quick blood panel to make sure we’re vaccinating a healthy dog.

While Cookie didn’t look like she’s put on any more weight, the scale read her at 6 kg heavier. 6 kg heavier! I don’t actually think that’s even possible as her harness has been maxed out for its size for a long time and with such weight gain would have to no longer fit.

Whether or not there was something wrong with the scale, before or now, I was looking for a weight loss, not gain.

Whether or not the number was wrong, I did still want Cookie thinner.

So did the vet who examined her. Different from Cookie’s family vet, since I didn’t think it mattered so much who did the routine stuff.

The vet and I were in agreement that Cookie should be thinner. But I again brought up how little she gets (including all supplements, treats, even the cream cheese I cover her pills with).

If it wasn’t a bad thyroid, how could this be explained?

I imagine vets hear all kinds of explanations and excuses for overweight dogs, but I knew I was right. This time I wasn’t going to fool around. I said that I wanted a thyroid panel done and that I wanted it done with Dr. Dodds. If we repeated the test from last time, at the same lab as last time, I’d likely have nothing to work with again.

I don’t know if the vet believed the problem is anything other than what goes into Cookie’s mouth, but she agreed to have the test done.

The results came back quickly and guess what?

Unexplained Weight Gain In Dogs: Is Your Dog Struggling with Weight in spite of Diet and Exercise? Cookie Is Hypothyroid

Cookie’s thyroid function tested very low.

It might have not been as low the first time we tested, but I’m sure it was less than optimal for at least two years.

Finally, I had some empirical data to work with. Cookie was put on thyroxine and guess what?

Hormones as substances that control and regulate processes such as growth, metabolism or fertility.

The thyroid gland, while a tiny organ, wields awesome powers.

alt="Unexplained Weight Gain In Dogs: Is Your Dog Struggling with Weight in spite of Diet and Exercise? Cookie Is Hypothyroid"
Thyroid gland: Image Pets Adviser

Thyroid hormones control metabolism – the chemical processes that occur in a living organism to maintain life. In the extreme, a body void of thyroid hormones would die.

Every organ in the body needs thyroid hormone to function normally.

Thyroid hormones help regulate body temperature, heart rate and cardiac output, fat and carbohydrate metabolism, central nervous system function, and other essential processes.

Thyroid hormones are like spark plugs of the body.”

Dr. Paul Eck

I like that metaphor. Not really all that accurate, I don’t think, but illustrates the fact that without it, you can have the engine and the fuel and all the other parts, but you’re not going anywhere.

Dr. Eck continues to explain, “They [thyroid hormones] ignite the fuel in the mitochondria of the cell to produce energy with which the body performs all of its functions.”

With hypothyroidism, very little work gets done, and most of the fuel provided through nutrition just gets put away because it’s not being used.

That explains the symptoms that come with low thyroid function, such as lethargy, weakness, weight gain, poor skin and coat quality, reduced immune function and other effects resulting from poor energy management. It can also lead to neuromuscular issues, which is why the first time thyroid issues came to my mind when Cookie started having problems with her legs. Whether or not her thyroid was involved with those things, I’m glad we got the problem nailed down and treated.

With all else being equal, within a couple of weeks on the meds, Cookie has lost almost a kilogram.

I thought she was looking thinner, but eyes can deceive. But we did go in to have her weight checked, and that’s how much she lost.

Now I actually have to be careful and watch that she doesn’t lose too much too fast and that her dose isn’t too high as we did have some arguments about what it should be.

Thyroxine dosage is calculated to optimal weight.

But what exactly is that? What she weighed at early this year? Or what she weighed when she was two years old? Technically, I believe it should be around what she weighed when she was around two years old. Which is almost 10 kg less than what the vet figured based on the last assessment.

The difference is that I know Cookie since she was a year and a half and this vet saw her for the first time about a month ago.

I think I’m right about this too but time will tell.

For now, I’m just glad this problem has been nailed down, and it can finally be addressed.

Was the weight gain the only reason I was suspecting bad thyroid?

Categories: ConditionsHypothyroidismReal-life StoriesSymptomsUnexplained weight gain

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Jana Rade

I am a graphic designer, dog health advocate, writer, and author. Jasmine, the Rottweiler of my life, was the largest female from her litter. We thought we were getting a healthy dog. Getting a puppy from a backyard breeder was our first mistake. Countless veterinary visits without a diagnosis or useful treatment later, I realized that I had to take Jasmine's health care in my own hands. I learned the hard way that merely seeing a vet is not always enough. There is more to finding a good vet than finding the closest clinic down the street. And, sadly, there is more to advocating for your dog's health than visiting a veterinarian. It should be enough, but it often is not. With Jasmine, it took five years to get a diagnosis. Unfortunately, other problems had snowballed for that in the meantime. Jasmine's health challenges became a crash course in understanding dog health issues and how to go about getting a proper diagnosis and treatment. I had to learn, and I had to learn fast. Helping others through my challenges and experience has become my mission and Jasmine's legacy. I now try to help people how to recognize and understand signs of illness in their dogs, how to work with their veterinarian, and when to seek a second opinion. My goal is to save others the steep curve of having to learn things the hard way as I did. That is the mission behind my blog and behind my writing. That is why I wrote Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog, which has turned out being an award-winning guide to dog owners. What I'm trying to share encompasses 20 years of experience.

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