According to the Alaskan Malamute Rescue of New England (AMRONE), hypothyroidism is the most prevalent of hormone disorders in dogs, and Alaskan Malamutes appear to be more likely to have this disease. This disease appears prevalent in northern breeds such as Samoyeds, Siberian huskies, and Alaskan Malamutes. Hypothyroidism may or may not have outward symptoms, and in the long term can seriously affect your dog's health. Understanding this disease will help you and your pet should your Malamute be affected by it.
What is Hypothyroidism?
Hypothyroidism occurs with the destruction of the thyroid gland or the inability of the thyroid gland to produce enough thyroid hormone. Thyroid hormones are important in metabolic regulation and affect growth, reproduction and all organs in the body. Hypothyroidism is often idiopathic, meaning that it may be hereditary or may have some other unknown cause. Dogs may develop it at any time but it usually appears between two and five years old. A healthy dog with normal thyroid levels may become hypothyroid later in life.
According to the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA), out of 144 reported evaluations, 19.4 percent of Malamutes had abnormal thyroid levels. The OFA statistics are voluntary and therefore the number of cases are likely to be under reported, given the small sample size. The link between hypothyroidism and Alaskan Malamutes is largely anecdotal currently, but according to The New Complete Alaskan Malamute by Maxwell Riddle and Beth J. Harris, Alaskan Malamutes a year and a half and older are prone to hypothyroidism.
An ongoing study at the University of Minnesota (Determination of Breed-Specific Reference Ranges for Assessing Thyroid Function in Several Breeds) is gathering information concerning hypothyroidism and Alaskan Malamutes led by Rebecca L. Davies, PhD and Sheila Torres, DVM, MS, PhD, DACVD. This study looks at possible genetic causes for hypothyroidism in various breeds including Alaskan Malamutes, Samoyeds, and Siberian huskies, all northern breeds that are reputed to be prone to hypothyroidism.
Hypothyroidism Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment
Hypothyroidism in a Malamute is often difficult to diagnose without a blood test as the symptoms vary and can mimic other diseases. Hair loss, poor hair coat, obesity, lethargy, mental dullness, heat seeking and inability to exercise are classic symptoms, however, a hypothyroid dog may have other issues such as cardiovascular issues and seizures because the thyroid gland affects all organs. Because hypothyroidism is common, it's important for your veterinarian to do a full thyroid panel to rule out other causes that might mimic hypothyroidism. If your Malamute is hypothyroid, your veterinarian will most likely prescribe a thyroid medication for your Alaskan Malamute.