Aside from other services, such as veterinary dental services, vaccinations, etc., one of the most common reasons pet parents bring their animal companions to the vet is for help with weight gain. In fact, studies have shown that nearly 54% of dogs and 59% of cats in the United States are overweight or obese.
While some factors can contribute to weight gain in pets, hypothyroidism is one of the most common.
What Is Hypothyroidism?
The thyroid gland is located in an animal’s neck and produces a hormone called thyroxine (T4), which helps to regulate the body’s metabolism. Hypothyroidism arises when the thyroid gland cannot produce enough of this hormone. While it rarely occurs in cats, it is common in dogs.
Signs of hypothyroidism in cats and dogs vary but can include the following:
- Weight gain
- Hair loss
- Dry skin
- Cold intolerance
- Muscle weakness
- Brittle nails
- Increased appetite
- Exercise intolerance
Hypothyroidism can lead to heart problems, infertility, and even death in severe cases.
How Does Hypothyroidism Cause Weight Gain?
One of the ways that hypothyroidism can cause weight gain is by reducing the body’s metabolic rate. The body burns fewer calories when the metabolism slows down, leading to weight gain.
In addition, hypothyroidism can cause an increase in appetite. This is because the hormone T4 helps to regulate the body’s hunger cues. When lacking this hormone, pets may feel more hungry and eat more than they need to.
Hypothyroidism can also lead to weight gain by causing fluid retention. When the body doesn’t have enough T4, it can cause a build-up of fluids in the tissues. This can make animals feel bloated and heavier than they actually are.
Diagnosing and Treating Hypothyroidism
If you think your pet has hypothyroidism, you must take them to the vet for a proper diagnosis. The vet will probably do a physical exam and order a blood test to check your pet’s T4 levels.
If the diagnosis is hypothyroidism, there is good news: it’s a treatable condition. Pets with hypothyroidism must take daily medication (in pill or liquid form) for the rest of their lives. It is easy to administer and is usually well-tolerated by pets.
Most pets will improve their symptoms within a few weeks of starting treatment. With proper treatment, they can lead happy, healthy lives.
Preventing Weight Gain in Hypothyroidism
In addition to treatment, there are a few things that pet parents can do to help prevent weight gain in their hypothyroid pets.
- Feed them a high-quality protein-rich diet and low in carbohydrates. This helps to keep their metabolism working properly. Remember that diet is vital in preventing weight gain and other internal diseases (why not look here for more info).
- Make sure they get plenty of exercise. This includes a short walk around the block or a game of fetch that can be helpful. Remember that exercise not only helps to burn calories, but it also helps to keep the body’s metabolism working properly.
- Monitor their food intake and weight regularly. This will help you to catch any weight gain early on and make necessary changes to their diet or exercise routine.
Hypothyroidism is a common condition that can lead to weight gain in pets. With proper treatment and care, it is a very treatable condition. Speak with a vet if you think your cat or dog suffers from hypothyroidism.