Foreclosure Pet Owner Syndrome
March 31, 2009
Gramma with her furry Grankids
How Our Gramma Helps
July 6, 2009

Huh? What’s “thyroid aggression?” Well, for us it was a long, hard, depressing, frustrating and scary two year journey to a miracle with a happy ending!

Have you been experiencing trouble with your dog displaying aggression when there is no need for it? Is this something that came on rather suddenly? It was for us and I was not only at my wit’s end, but scared to death I was going to have to give Riley up … or worse … have him put down.

It started one day when he was about 9-10 months old. This sweet boy, who had always loved attention from humans and got along with all the dogs at the dog park and everywhere else, suddenly went Jekyll & Hyde on us. He was standing at the window looking out when the mail person came around. I was standing in the kitchen and from out of nowhere he went absolutely ballistic! He went berzerk for no reason at all. I thought he was going to go through the glass window, I kid you not. I had to be peeled off the ceiling I was so startled by his sudden, overwhelming and totally unnecessary reaction. After all, the mail person had been making their daily rounds for the 2-3 months after he came to live with us with him calmly watching from the window without making a sound. I didn’t know it then, but that was just the beginning of our nightmare.

Things progressed to ongoing incidents of inappropriate aggressive behavior. Absolutely out of the blue he’d make an aggressive move when there was absolutely no reason for him to do so. Things like overreacting to people coming near me, which we contributed it to him simply being over-protective of me. It sure made it scary for me to take him anywhere. I got to thinking this dog had a screw loose somewhere, that there was something terribly wrong with him. I tried everything I could think of and anything I could find to change his aggressive behavior. I resorted to things that I’d never resorted to before and didn’t like what I felt forced to do in order to keep other people and dogs safe. Nothing worked.

I couldn’t let him near another dog for fear he’d attack it. We couldn’t even pass a dog on the other side of the street who was calmly sitting in their yard without Riley going crazy with that “kill look” in his eyes. If he’d have broken his collar or leash, it sure seemed that poor dog would have been dead before he knew it. I was afraid to take him on walks. Someone would come to the door and he’d scare the living you know what out of them with his bonkers behavior at the door. I had to crate him before I could open the door … and this behavior was even with people he knew.

We spent several thousand dollars sending him away to live with a professional K9 trainer for four months. We didn’t have this kind of money so bills were paid late. As fast as I could make it, the money was turned right over to the trainer. He was fine with the trainer, but got him home and it started all over again, all those thousands of dollars down the drain. During that time, we removed our old wooden fence and paid to have a chain link fence put in. Why? Because the trainer had a chain link fence and Riley was not reactive to anyone on the other side of that fence. That includes quite a number of dogs and all kinds of strangers. We figured his problem was that he couldn’t see through the wooden fence and so if we put in a chain link fence, he’d be able to see and his fence aggression which scared our neighbors half to death, would stop. It didn’t. He nearly gave a telephone repairman a heart attack one day with his fence charging antics. So what did all this mean to us? That it was my fault and I was literally devastated. If he could behave with the trainer and didn’t in my company then what else could it be?

I’m not proud to say that we even tried an e-collar and numerous other methods of training. I have more training books, training tools, collars and leashes than a person needs for a dozen dogs. Translation … more money down the drain. People told me it was my fault, I wasn’t enough of a Pack Leader so he took that position. Talk about guilt! I tried my darndest, but he always was more dominant than me .. of course the trainer was male and dominant so again, it seemed it was my fault. My gut told me it wasn’t, that something was just terribly wrong in my dog’s head. I had visions of all kinds of mental and other illnesses causing this. But with people telling me “it’s your fault” I was so confused. My gut said one thing, but I was hearing another. I was in tears almost daily wondering what I could do to fix the monster I’d supposedly created. Never in my life did I have nor have I dealt with an aggressive dog and so was at a total loss for what to do. I can’t even explain the emotional pain this was causing me, but it was significant. I kept wondering what had happened to my sweet, gentle boy. This monster was not my Riley!

I consulted with a more people than I can remember who owned dogs, and more specifically German Shepherds. I had to force myself to perform simple daily tasks. I pretty much could think of nothing else, couldn’t sleep, couldn’t concentrate (except for dwelling on this), I cried a lot, I was deeply embarrassed several times by his inappropriate behavior … it just totally messed with my life. People started talking of course, “why doesn’t she get rid of him before he hurts someone?” comments were being made. I stopped taking him to visit Grandma & Grampa or anyone else for that matter because I was so afraid of what he might do.

Now, part of the problem is that some of the behaviors he was displaying are normal German Shepherd behaviors. But he was over-the-top in several ways and most often it involved going into “protect mode” when anyone came near me. Nobody but me or his Dad could look him directly in the eyes or he’d go off on them. Because normal GSD behaviors were sprinkled in with his aberant behaviors, it was really hard to figure out what this dog’s problem was. Every time he’d act out, I’d go on yet another research trip on “what’s wrong with my dog?” or I’d find some other training method or trainer, buy yet another book or training tool. He started gaining weight from the clicker method because of all the treats you give them. I was driving both myself and my husband insane, but I was bound and determined to find the answer.

I had heard about a dysfunctional thyroid causing aggressive behavior but I had dismissed him having a thyroid problem. Don’t ask me why, I have no idea but it just didn’t seem like this was the answer. Finally one day I decided to research it and the puzzle pieces all started to fall into place. The more I read the more I believed that he had a problem with his thyroid. The day came when on a walk, he lunged at a small child probably less than two years old. There was no contact made with the child, I was quick enough to put him in a down before anything bad happened. But that was the final straw and there were neon lights going off in my head … acting aggressively towards small children is not totally uncommon for a dog because children under about 5-6 years old are at direct eye level and tend to stare or look at a dog in the face. For some dogs direct eye contact is a confrontation and some do not take that lightly. But …. aggression towards small children is also a sign of thyroid dysfunction. As soon as we got home, I made the call and it was off to the vet for a blood test.

We went on a Wednesday and instead of having the blood sent to our vet’s local lab, I opted to have it sent to Hemopet in California. Hemopet is run by Dr. Jean Dodds and the Hemopet lab is the best one in the country for thyroid disease testing. I wasn’t taking any chances, I wanted the experts to be the ones to test his blood. The following Monday the results were in (yes, they are fast!) and Riley was officially diagnosed with Hypothyroidism. I was bouncing off the walls happy! Why was I happy that my dog was sick? Because by then I’d done enough research to know that a small, very inexpensive pill twice a day for the rest of his life would supplement what his thyroid was lacking with a very good chance that this medication would get rid of his aberant behaviors!

There’s a list of about 30 some dog breeds that are prone to thyroid disease and German Shepherds are on the list. This doesn’t mean that only dog breeds on this list can have a dysfunctional thyroid, it does mean that if your dog’s breed is on it, they are more susceptible to having some kind of thyroid disease.

All to often, aggressive behavior is blamed on a lack of obedience training or “it’s an aggressive breed dog.” Some people like myself, work very hard training but it doesn’t have the effect it should have. If more people knew about thyroid disease causing aggressive behavior and had their dogs tested, we could probably cut down drastically on the number of dogs euthanized each year for aggressive behavior.

So, if your dog is displaying inappropriate aggressive behaviors, I urge you to have his thyroid levels checked. It’s a simple blood test that takes a few minutes at your vet’s office. You’ll have the results in a few days and if your dog is diagnosed with the disease, put him on and keep him on the prescribed medication. The meds are not expensive, I got a six week supply for just $12. After the dog is on the meds for six weeks, he needs to be retested to make sure the meds are working and to find out if the dosage is correct. Sometimes the dosage has to be played with a bit until it’s right. In our case, six weeks on the initial dosage both Riley and Nissa’s levels are in normal range. I decided to have Nissa tested, not because she was displaying the same symptoms, she wasn’t … but she did have some other ones that indicated she could have the illness as well. She’s a German Shepherds and GSD’s are on the list so I felt it important that she be tested, too. After the levels are within normal range, it’s usually recommended to have the dog retested annually. In my case because aggression is what happens to Riley, I’m going to have him tested every six months and I’ve found out that many owners of dogs with hypothyroidism that display aggressive tendencies do the same thing.

I’m now an advocate of vets including thyroid testing as a routine procedure when a dog goes for his checkups, at the very least for every breed on this list. It’s not expensive … total cost per dog was just $135.00 for the initial test and $85 for the retest and that includes shipping charges to California. The difference in cost is because a retest does not require some of the lab work that the initial test does. If vets around the country would do this, it could save so many dog’s lives, it’s absolutely worth it! The difference in Riley in just 6-8 weeks is great! I will never say that he can be 100% trusted, no one should ever trust 100% that their dog won’t bite or exhibit aggressive behavior because that’s just plain irresponsible dog ownership. Any dog, any breed can get aggressive, perhaps you heard about the the family’s Pomeranian that killed their infant?

I’m happy to report that I can now proudly say that Riley’s “just a German Shepherd!” I can take him for walks and actually enjoy it, I’m not afraid he’s going to want to chew up every dog and spit out the pieces, although he does have a prey drive so unleashed little dogs in close proximity are off limits. He still barks at the mail person, but it’s a bark (ok, so it’s a lot of bark!) but it’s not at all like it used to be. Unfortunately, I have no way to safely test him with small children, so they remain off limits as well. I do plan on having him temperament tested at my local dog club in September and I never thought I’d be able to say this, but I think he just might pass the test!

If you’d like to start some research of your own, here are a few links to get you started. Of course, definitely visit Hemopet, but in addition try these:

39 Comments

  1. Treena says:

    Sorry to double post but I just wanted to mention….as another poster said….a full thyroid panel can be up to $700…..I am in Ottawa , Ontario, Canada and when I asked my vet ….. it was $680 ish. That why I haven’t had it done yet…It’s horrible to not be able to help your dog because of the cost. Last “behavioral” trainer I spoke to wanted close to $2000.

  2. Ken N says:

    Your issuesite seem eerily similar to our 1 1/2 year old terrier beagle mix. She randomly bit my face when I went in to calm her down cuz she was sad that our son was hurt. She is very protective of the kids. Honestly she is the sweetest cuddliest thing ever but in the last month she bit my hand hard and drew blood and bit my face and I had to get stiches.
    My question is did your dog stop displaying aggressive tendencies after you got her medication? Our vet is recommending we rehome her or put her down but we love her so much.

    • Mom says:

      I would get a new vet rather than put my dog down or give him or her away. Sounds like your vet knows nothing of dog behavior and when vets don’t know about dog behavior their first and usually only reaction is to do as your vet suggested. It’s one of my biggest pet peeves! No way in this situation would I so much as think of doing either one for one millisecond!

      What in the world do you want to medicate your dog for? This sounds like an isolated emotional incident. In a moment like that I don’t blame any dog for biting. You and everyone else in the immediate area were upset including your dog. Unless I’m missing something important, misunderstanding what you’ve said or you didn’t explain it all, it sounds to me like you’re making way to much of this.

  3. Mark Grice says:

    Hi, This is an older article, but I hope its still active. I think that my dog, Ninja might have a thyroid problem, but that raises some concerns for me… the Backstory (forgive me this is long) I apologize in advance…

    Ninja is a high drive, black GSD, and we’ve had him since a pup. He’s the third Shepherd I’ve owned (always one at a time). I thought my 2 previous GSDs were high drive, but Ninja makes them look like couch potatoes. That’s why a lot of what I now see were huge aggressive warning flags I just attributed to his high drive nature.

    He was always a pushy, even as a pup. Sometimes even nipping my wife to get her to play with him. He NEVER took to the leash. Nothing we could do would settle him down. I even left him with a K9 trainer for two weeks. Similar to what you describe, he did great there. When we came to pick him up, and opened our Jeep door, though, he went bonkers (excited, yapping, when he got in the jeep he was biting everything in sight — but the entire back-end of the Jeep had been ruined by him long before this… Which was why we took him to the trainer in the first place.) He would get in an adrenaline overdrive mode, and would just be bonkers. When the adrenaline rush wore off, he was fine. After a year and a half, he did settle down a little. He began to really like affection – giving and receiving. When he was younger, he seemed to view petting suspiciously. But he started coming to my wife or me and leaning into us wanting pet. He especially loves his back and rear legs being massaged. He is a very active runner. He is usually tight there. For a year, I thought we had turned a corner.

    It was when he was 2 ½ years old that I suffered his first attack.

    It was really strange because he follows me around everywhere. He probably trusts my wife more (she can do things like give him a bath, or wipe mud off of him) but he seemed to favor me. He is my constant shadow. On this evening, he was asleep on the floor and I saw what I thought might be a tick on his hip. I asked my wife what it was, she looked over and said she wasn’t sure. During this time Ninja looked up at me, through half closed eyes. I assumed he was sleepy… I went over and gently plucked at the item (which was a leaf) and he came up at me, snarling and snapping. I had never seen this before. I told him to sit, which he did – growling the whole time. His eyes were slits and then he started coming up out of the sit, the growl building. I gave the command to sit again, and gestured, and he attacked my hand. He had three bites on me before I knew what happened. It was a nasty affair after that as I tried to fend him off. I was able to get behind him and grab him by the scruff and hold him (he was standing. I didn’t do an Alpha Roll or anything). I kept trying to calm him down, but my voice was shaky. Eventually, he relaxed, and all of the rage left. Cautiously I let go of him and he was totally normal. When I was in the bathroom washing my wounds (several deep gashes on both hands – it’s a wonder I didn’t need stitches) he came in all concerned. He was like two different dogs.I have never been attacked by my own dog in my life. I didn’t know what to do. Because he was back to normal, we decided to just make sure everyone knew to give him a wide berth if he was sleeping.

    The next attack came about three months later. Ninja was lying in the hallway at night – black dog, dark hallway, bad combination… My son (23 years old) went to the bathroom and must have closed some body part in the door. Ninja (who has always been vocal when he is in pain) shot up like he was being killed and pretty soon the yelping turned into that low growl. I didn’t want him attacking my son, so I opened our door and called for him. Ninja came in, and then launched at me! Same thing as before. After he got several shots in, I was able to hold him from behind. This time the rage came and went in waves. I assume that the throbbing from the injury was causing that. But eventually, it all passed, and he was normal dog – wondering why I seemed to be bleeding again.

    We should have taken action then. But, we figured that was pain induced and we can avoid that situation. The third attack wasn’t on me, it was on my daughter (21 years old). She was trying to leave through the front door, and he was trying to get out past her, and she nudged him back with her knee (something that she had done before with no incident) and he came on her, snarling and trying to bite. Fortunately, she had a backpack on and was able to keep him away. I came up and pulled him off of her, and held him until she left, but as soon as I let go of him, he turned on me. More gashes and wounds until I was able to get him outside, where he settled down.

    Clearly we were out of our depth. I then started a parade of attempts similar to what you mentioned. Took him to a trainer that told us to put him down. We probably would have, except the trainer felt off to me… a bit of a fraud, or self-educated and not very well – using terms I knew from reading about this, but using them wrong, and making weird conclusions based on “evidence” Ninja was unstable.

    We visited another trainer who is somewhat famous in our area for saving “last chance” dogs. We attended (without Ninja… just to observe) his “Green Mile” class for dogs who had been scheduled for euthanasia, but had been rescued. I had been reading up on aggression and I asked him point blank about Thyroid issues. (Lou Castle from another online forum emailed me to have the thyroid checked). The trainer didn’t think Ninja was exhibiting all of the symptoms of the thyroid problem, and gave me a medical link from a veterinarian site to check. I read through it, and had to agree that many of the symptoms were not present. (Lethargic? Yeah, not this dog…)

    The other thing was “How do we get the blood test?” I have a dog who exhibits mistrust, and reacts to it violently. The idea of putting him in a car, and taking him to a vet to have bloodwork drawn seems crazy to me. I was in the process of trying to rebuild my trust with Ninja. I thought that would undo everything I had done.

    And then there is the expense. I was told the full blood panel was something like $700 – which is fine to spend to save a dog’s life. But to spend it just to find out we had to put him down anyway? Seemed like a bad idea. This trainer thought Ninja could be saved by diligent training, but that it would take a full time effort from everyone in the family. Unfortunately, there is no way we could devote that kind of time.

    We tried to work with him the best we could. I modified my work so I didn’t travel much and my wife and I poured time into him. The relationship was much better. And then, last week, I got bit again. This time we had been playing outside, and he had gotten into some burrs. They were the really small kind that look like prickly birdseed. I had removed a few outside. He was OK with that. Inside I removed a couple more, one on his neck. He looked at me funny, so I showed it to him. He seemed OK. But one was right at the edge of his fur, so I went back to get it too… and that apparently was one burr too many, because I got the snarl and snap, and I stopped and told him it was OK, but he wound up and came again. This time he had his collar on, so I was able to gain control of the situation fairly quickly. Which means my hand was bit some, but not horribly like before. I moved him to the outside, while holding his collar. Every so often, he would try to turn on me, but I would hold him until he settled. Eventually I got him outside, where the “Evil dog” spell wore off completely, and he was back to normal.

    The problem is that we are in a situation that if we don’t have a solution soon, the only choice is to put him down. I can’t trust him around anyone.

    We can’t have any visitors to our house at all. My daughter is scared to death of him and will only enter or leave the house if I am home so I can take him outside. Some of that is unwarranted, but I get it. When he attacks he is scary, and I’m not going to tell her to get over it. The dog needs fixed. I have had another “behaviorist” out and she told me to put him down – even though he exhibited no aggression while she was here. And considering how flaky she was, I’m surprised he didn’t. But she watched him licking my wife’s face, watched him obey me completely when I had him sit and stay so I could hide a treat for him to find. And she said she can’t believe that the dog would ever attack us – and since he did, that must mean he is unstable.

    OK, she was a bit flakey. And it turns out that she was not even a real behaviorist (she had just “taken a few classes”) – but still, I have had him to three trainers, and the count is 2 out of three say to put him down. So, I am really in a desperation mode here.

    Thanks for reading all of that. Here’s my current thinking:

    First, some of this seems to track with aggression from something like a thyroid problem, but not all. The Problem is I can’t dream right now of putting him in a car, driving him to a vet, and asking the vet to stick a needle in him and draw blood. That would result in an attack, which means he needs to be muzzled, but even then he’ll have to be restrained. He’s not going to sit still for that. I’m concerned what that will do to his trust that I have rebuilt. Also, I don’t have a muzzle for him and I’m not sure I won’t get attacked when I try to take him into the vets. He’s been there before, but the last time they muzzled him and he has not been there since he started attacking humans.

    Meanwhile, I’ve done some research on the thyroid medication, and it seems to have no bad side effects. What about treating him for thyroid issues for a few weeks, and seeing if it helps? If it does, I can get him to a vet and check it out. If not, I don’t think any harm comes from it… Do you think any vet would do this for me? Weird if not, because I know several who would kill him for me, but I am trying to find one who would work with me to maybe save him.

    Considering what is waiting for him if we can’t do this, it seems any potential side effects are worth it, but I don’t know… Any thoughts?

    • Mom says:

      Hi Mark,

      Wow, I’m very sorry to hear of all the issues with your boy. This is not only very sad but frightening as well.

      I’ve never heard of a $700 blood panel to check for thyroid. Ours is less than $100 and that’s even when I have it shipped to Hemopet and the daily medication is about as cheap as medications come. I think $700 is way out of line and may include much more than what you’re looking to have done. They symptoms of thyroidism do not have to include all symptoms, it’s a progressive disease. More vets than not brush it off without another thought because they think things like a dog it too young, they don’t have the serious visible symptoms (yet) blah blah blah.

      As for medicating him without a test proving he needs it I tend to think that’s highly unlikely because it may fall into the malpractice area. Vets are no different than doctors, they have rules and protocols to follow. They can’t just dispense medication without a reason or they could lose their license. Additionally, if your boy doesn’t have hypothyroidism medicating him might push his levels too high. Perhaps you could have him sedated to take the test? You could give him some Valium at home before taking him to the vet and then they could put him into a light twilight kind of sleep to draw the blood. Extreme measures but this is something I would definitely try before taking more serious steps. He could just have a really bad thyroid problem but you don’t know that unless you have the test. I would do whatever it safely takes to get the test done if this were my boy.

      As I was reading through your story, although VERY RARE it reminds me of Rage Syndrome which there is no cure for, it will only get worse. Whatever is wrong with your dog it’s progressing. I do not know of a test for rage syndrome. Your boy could also have some kind of neurological illness which only a neurologist would be able to help you determine. You could try to find one and at least call and inquire of any neurological conditions that might cause this kind of behavior. I would also do some research because only one vet’s opinion may not be enough. Your dog could have something this neurologist just never heard of, but on the other hand might be willing to help you research.

      Most of the people that write me have much simpler one time kind of issues. What you have going on is beyond extremely serious and in my opinion your dog is not only a danger to even his own family but a liability to the rest of your world. Your dog isn’t just inflicting a simple dog bite he’s literally and viciously attacking and there’s a huge difference between the two.

      I’m the very last person to suggest something as permanent as putting a dog down but even I would have to seriously consider it if your boy were mine. It really sounds like your boy is well beyond just behavioral issues where there are solutions. It sounds very much like there’s something medically wrong with him and only you can decide how far you want to take searching for a diagnosis that can save him before he does some permanent damage to someone or worse.

      My heart breaks for you and for him, I wish I could be more help but unfortunately your boy’s issues are out of my range other than what I’ve already said. My very best wishes to you and your boy. Please let us know what happens?

  4. Ezra says:

    Thank you all for this information and for giving me some hope in what is an awful situation. Our beautiful 5 year old pure bred english staffy male, in the last year, has started displaying a number of traits that appear to go alongside with thyroid issues. We are having him tested this evening, and it is literally out of pure desperation, that we are hoping this is the answer to what has been happening. He seems ot be showing a lot of mixed emotion and unpredictably, initally we thought he was struggling with alpha, as randomly he will be agressive to my husband, 5 seconds later, happy as larry…. he also shows other symptons, such as eating quickly, whinging, anxiety, separation anxiety etc etc…… I am praying to god this is the answer we have been waiting for :(

    • Mom says:

      Hi Ezra,

      I hope you find the answer, thank you for caring enough about your dog to pursue all the possibilities of helping him! Best of luck to you!

  5. Valesia says:

    I have an almost 2 year old vizsla. She had always been hyperactive despite training and adequate exercise. Around a year ago she developed an irrational fear of the floors at the location we went to obedience class for. Then at the local park. She refused to walk for almost two weeks. Through positive training I thought we had resolved the issue. She has had an increase in resource guarding issues, and has growled at each person in my family over the last year (each time when we have leaned in to give her kisses while she was laying down). Two weeks ago she growled and lunged at my brother. But tonight she growled at me for the first time when I went to give her a kiss. I had just scheduled an appointment for her thyroid to get checked. I am almost hoping that that is the common link between all these erratic behaviors! Thank you for your article, I have been so preoccupied/anxious about her behavior. I just want my precious pup to be more balanced. I hate having this underlying fear/anxiety around her.

    • Mom says:

      Hi Valesia,

      I really hope your dog’s issues are as simple as a faulty thyroid! If you find that’s not the issue, keep looking!

      Please don’t lean in for kisses anymore, it sounds like what’s happening is you’re invading your dog’s personal private space and she’s not liking that. If you want kisses from your dog, call her to you, point to your chin and say “Give Mom a kiss!” you want her to feel comfortable which means she comes to you not the other way around. Although you’re not meeting your dog, there is some relevant information in my article on How to Meet a Dog.

      Please research resource guarding. There is help to be found on that issue. Best of luck to you!

  6. Adrienne says:

    I’m going through the early stages of what my vet thinks may be a thyroid issue with our 4 year old white german shepherd. Thankfully, this week during a routine vet visit, our vet voiced some concerns about Wilbur’s weight gain and also thought his coat had changed. Super glad that we have a proactive vet who really looks out for us and our pets without any prompting.

    It’s very helpful to read about other’s experiences and things that we should look out for, specifically the aggression. Although our guy hasn’t exhibited any aggression, we will certainly be vigilant and wary that this could happen.

    • Mom says:

      Hi Adrienne,

      I’m glad you enjoyed your visit here and wish you and your beautiful boy all the very best! It’s so nice to hear you have what sounds like a super vet!

  7. Chris says:

    We are currently waiting on the blood results for our guy. He was a rescue that we adopted at 8 weeks old. We believe he is a shepherd / hound mix. He was immediately sick with parvo and followed that up with pneumonia. The rescue turned their back on us claiming it had nothing to do with them when after some research we found out that indeed there were other parvo puppies from them but there was nothing we could do. We brought him in limp with a fever of 107 and the hospital told us we could put him down or pay a large amount to try to save him. We chose to save him of course. He is about a year and a half old and since around 8 months has shown some aggressive signs that would surface out of nowhere. He is full of love and wants to play constantly. He can be extremely mushy, tail wagging, toy in his mouth and in a split second turn and bite you. He gets this glazed over look, sometimes his teeth chatter, and then within minutes its like nothing every happened and he wants to play again. His behavior has gotten worse recently so we brought him last Thursday to have the thyroid testing done. Now we are waiting for the results and hoping that this will be our resolution because we are at our wits end.

    • Mom says:

      Hi Chris,

      Thank you so much for saving your boy. It sounds like he was a very sick pup, what a horrible beginning to life for him but thank goodness he found you and your family who cared enough to help him! Bless your hearts!

      Your boy’s behavior does seem as though it may be thyroid related and I do hope that you will report back with the results. I hope you sent the bloodwork off to Hemopet or another lab that does the extensive testing rather than the basic testing which is I’ve found is most often only what the GP vets do and basic testing can miss true thyroid issues.

      He’s currently displaying some disturbing behavior(s) with the teeth chattering and glazed over eyes, that does sound scary. If his thyroid turns out to be normal I would dig deeper into other potential health issues and I’d also take a serious look at what you’re feeding him. If you’re feeding commercial dog food, at the very least I would try a good quality no-grain formula. But please make sure to check the Grade Your Dog Food lists before you select what you’re going to try and opt for a really good quality food for him.

      Best of luck and please let us know how it goes!
      Deb

  8. kate says:

    thanks Deb! we currently have him on a sweet potato and salmon food (his food allergies are very low, all 100s on a scale of 100 to 5000 being positive. but we’re avoiding rice, barley, white potato, beef, corn, etc). i think his inhalant allergies are worse based on that allergy test, he gets weekly shots – and it’s been 6 months with little change to his intense itching. i’m almost hopeful for a slight thyroid issue if it’s causing the skin issues and could be fixed easily… we have been through MANY vets/dermatologists and our next course of action is a holisitic vet if his thyroid comes back completely normal! i’ll be sure to report back!

    • Mom says:

      Hi Kate,

      Love it when people are so good with taking care of their dogs! You get an A+ from us!

      We had a Yorkie many years ago that every August he got a case of the itchies. Vet thought it was a seasonal thing, but we never did figure it all out. If he were alive today there may be a better answer for him but we’re talking probably close to 30 years ago so health for dogs was hardly an issue back then because dogs were “just dogs” back then to many more people than they are now.

      I’m anxious to hear what happens if you go to a holistic vet. Have thought about that for my own but so far haven’t followed through with it. Looking forward to you keeping us posted and good luck!

      Deb

  9. kate says:

    thank you for sharing this story!! our once sweet bloodhound is suddenly displaying random aggression (some food related, but mainly towards my husband). we’re expecting a baby in november and have been working with a trainer but he’s seems to have gotten worse and is increasingly anxious on walks (had a meltdown seeing a bulldozer in motion, and now lawnmowers are terrifying him). our trainer suggested having blood sent to Hemopet and we’re making an appointment to do so this week. i am almost hoping he too has a thyroid issue and is not just an aggressive dog! thanks for this article and the articles you linked to!

    • Mom says:

      Hi Kate,

      Congratulations on your upcoming new baby! We wish you the very best.

      Would love to hear what your testing outcome is and what happens with your sweetie boy afterwards. Keep in mind that he’s more than figured out there’s something going with Mom’s growing tummy and he may also be anxious and confused. You don’t smell the same to him right now because of your hormone changes and whatnot.

      In the case of your dog I’d also be looking seriously into what you’re feeding him. He may have some food allergies going on or other issues from the ingredients depending on what you’re feeding.

      Best of luck and please keep us posted!

      Deb

  10. Julie says:

    Your words ring so true. I have a border collie mix who is just now a year old. I got him at 11 wks, and at about 5 months he just went crazy. Perhaps that is too young for a thyroid problem, but I’m calling the vet immediately in the morning, for honestly, all you say about people telling you to be more alpha, etc., and blaming you. I’ve been a nut case for the past six months, pulling my hair out, thinking I’m an awful dog mama. (I lost a dog last June who didn’t need any training, so many think I just haven’t known what I’m doing.) Again, perhaps he’s too young and this can’t be the cause of his horrific freakazoid fear issues, but sure would be nice if a pill could fix the issue and make me less concerned about his behaviors, esp. around kids. I’ve been working tirelessly on training, and he’s coming around, but still there are issues of lunging at unpredictable moments. Thank you.

    • Mom says:

      Hi Julie,

      I hope things go well. It’s really a myth to think your dog is too young. I’ve found out thyroid disease doesn’t have age limitations. Our dogs were young as well. Please remember that if the test is negative, doesn’t mean that later on in life it can’t go positive so don’t think you’re in the clear if it comes back negative now. Good luck and please let us know how it goes.

  11. Sarah says:

    Thank you so much for writing this!! I literally feel like I could have been the author it is so dead on to my story with my dog!! I mean down to exact details! And as you experienced everyone has made me too feel as though his behavior is my fault despite my endless efforts and money spent to help him! I am calling TODAY to get his thyroid checked. And Dr. Dodd is only 20 minutes away from me!

    • Mom says:

      Hi Sarah,

      You’re welcome, we’re happy we were able to help and thanks for taking the time to give us your input. Good luck and please stop back and let us know how everything goes.

  12. Felix says:

    Thank you for your articles. I just met with a behaviorist yesterday who mentioned a potential thyroid disorder for my dog Felix. He’s a super sweet lab mix that has progressively gotten more and more agressive over the last few years to the point where he’s bitten our other dog and my wife seemingly unprovoked. I’m going to be getting his thyroid test completed as soon as possible and obedience training too. I’m excited to have found a potential cause but still keeping an open mind.

    • Mom says:

      Hi Felix/Brian,

      I’m so glad you found our blog useful. Thank you for being a caring owner and looking for solutions other than to put your dog down or find him a new home. Keeping an open mind and continuing to research potential solutions is a great way to approach this! I hope you’ll keep us posted on how things go and we wish you bookoodles of luck!

  13. springer5 says:

    Thank you so much for your article – I found it very helpful and it makes me hopeful! The thread of comments have also been very insightful. I also have a springer spaniel that is very unpredictable with other dogs. When I first got him at 1 1/2 he was a show dog so he was not neutered. He was great with other dogs – even would engage play. Within a couple of weeks of having him neutered (yes NEUTERED) was when I first saw him snap at another dog. At first I thought it was just the one dog, then I thought it was just small dogs – you get the picture.

    He is now 4 years old – and is good with people. I do not know when he will react and when he won’t to other dogs. We can pass a dog one day and he is fine and the next day he will pull and bark like crazy. He can be in a setting with dogs and act totally fine – and I am on guard pulling at him if he sniffs a butt or face – so I know that doesn’t help either.

    I had my vet test his thyroid and his T4 is low normal. I found out that his sire is hypothyroid. I had talked to vet about doing a full panel test with Jean Dodds or Michigan State but he did not think he needs it. In addition, I think his coat has lost its lustre. I spent nearly $700 at acupuncture to address the issue to no avail! I also took him to a behaviorist that I was not very impressed with.

    If I really push my vet I think he will do the full panel but I need to recoup some of what I spent before I can afford it. Hoping this is the answer as I do like socializing with other dog owners and also hate having to cross the street every time we encounter a dog!

    I would also love to hear how Benny is doing as I also think my dog has lost muscle in his head as well. I also think I will get Dr. Dodd’s book. It is just so frustrating when you are actively trying to deal with you dog’s issues and running into dead ends – and costly too!

  14. Springer87 says:

    I will certainly have a look at Dr Jean’s book on the canine thyroid epidemic. I have done a little bit more research into the condition and there are a few other signs that Benny seems to be showing so I will keep you posted as to how he goes and what the results of his blood tests are, one we have them done.

    In the past 9-10 months he has 3 small seizures – the vet thought it may be a heat related thing – or that he could have very mild epilepsy. Each time it has happened it has lasted a few minutes and then he has been ok. I think that’s why the vet wasn’t inclined to take much action. Since looking at some of the symptoms of thyroid conditions in dogs it seems that that could also be linked.

    I also felt that he was losing some muscle on his head – it just feels a little bonier than it used to – when I have him at the vet I will get them to check this out. I read that muscle wastage, particularly on the head can also be an indicator.

    I have recently changed his diet to include more raw meat. I have switched to raw kangaroo mince which is a great high protein, high iron meat. It’s a very lean meat so I alternate it with regular dog meats so I will see how he goes with a change in diet.

    Thanks again for all your information and I shall keep you updated on Benny. :-)

    • Mom says:

      Hi Rachel,

      It sure sounds like Benny’s got some potentially serious things going on. We’re thinking of you and hoping for the very best. Please do keep us posted! Not only are we concerned for your Benny (and you as well because this is a stressful and scary situation!) but anything you find out can be very helpful to our other readers.

      Mom

  15. Springer87 says:

    As I have been reading the posts on this site I feel like I might be having one of those ‘puzzle pieces falling into place’ moments. I have a 4 yr old English Springer Spaniel called Benny. He is a lovely boy and is well behaved with my husband and I but has been unpredictable with other people, although he is mostly fine with other dogs.

    I first witnessed Benny’s aggression when he was about 5-6 months old and we were at puppy school. He was in a stand pose and the trainer went up to him to run her hands over his back and he went berserk. I was so shocked because up until then he had been fine. A few weeks prior to this, my partner had taken Benny to training alone (I was at work) and during the session a lady who attends the class wanted to put a show collar on him – he got quite agitated and the woman kept struggling with him until the trainer asked her to leave him alone. I have often thought that maybe this was where his aggression towards strangers started.

    Because of his aggression I have been extra careful when anyone is around and I am conscious that he knows he is not the leader of the pack and it makes him a breeze to handle day-to-day but it really makes no difference if he goes into his aggressive zone. I had him neutered and he definitely calmed down but his response to people coming too close or examining him has not changed.

    The most recent incident was about 4 months ago when my parents were looking after Benny for a few days. At the time my parents had my younger cousin (10) staying with them. The cousin went up to Benny, sat beside him and patted his head – he suddenly growled then snapped and bit my cousin’s cheek (Luckily it was just a small scratch and slight bruising – it could have been a lot worse). I had warned my folks about his episodes of aggression and not to let strangers too close to him but unfortunately they had not witnessed it, and figured I was overreacting (as they had only seen the lovely fun Benny) and assumed he would be fine to have inside while they had visitors :-/
    I felt so guilty and it still makes me feel sick to think about it and how bad it could have been.

    Since this occurred I have been doing more behavioural work with him but on a recent trip to the vet I noticed his reaction to strangers has not improved! I just feel that there has to be more to his aggression than being poorly trained. I have grown up with Springers and they have always had great temperaments. Plus I put a lot of time into his training and I exercise him daily so it just doesn’t seem to make sense that he is just over-protective because of poor training or anxiety.

    I have recently found out that Benny’s father has been diagnosed with a thyroid condition, so I am wondering if it could be a genetic thing and maybe Benny has a dysfunctional thyroid. I will contact the vet and discuss the possibility of getting a blood test done.

    • Mom says:

      Hi Rachel,

      Thank you for sharing your story. I’m sorry you’re having issues with your Benny. I know how scary incidents like these are and wanted to thank you for taking pro-active steps to try to help him. Having his thyroid levels checked is commendable especially since you’ve learned his father has thyroid dysfunction. Hypothyroidism is genetic so this is a very smart move on your part. Some good reading from the leader in thyroid conditions in dogs is Dr. Jean Dodds. She’s written a book entitled The Canine Thyroid Epidemic: Answers You Need for Your Dog which you should find extremely helpful.

      If your vet gives you any flack or indication that he/she feels it’s not necessary, I would demand that he do it or go to another vet who will honor your request. There are still too many vets out there that don’t know about and/or don’t put much credence in thyroid conditions in dogs and may try to blow you off. Please, don’t let this happen. Some people don’t feel they should question a vet’s opinion but this is your dog and you have every right to question and to have your feelings and requests respected and acted upon. You at least have to know if his thyroid is ok or not. Also, keep in mind that even if his levels come back normal, that doesn’t mean they will remain normal for his entire lifetime. Some vets may say Benny is to young to have thyroid problems — not true, it can happen at any age.

      While you are at the vet, I would also insist on a really good physical exam. There could be other physical issues causing Benny pain or discomfort that no one is aware of. Another suggestion is to do some research on what you’re feeding him. What’s in his dog food could be a contributing factor. I have a couple of articles you may wish to read What’s in Your Dog’s Food Bowl and Venturing into RAW Feeding. Your Benny could be allergic to one or more ingredients in his dog food which can definitely have an impact on behaviors and which will probably *not* be found in a routine vet exam. A switch in his diet may help especially if you’re feeding common grocery store brand foods.

      I’m also happy you’re dealing with this on a behavioral level because Benny has learned dangerous behaviors which are working for him in his effort to keep people away. Everyone wants a dog that people can just approach without incident and some people honestly believe that every dog should just simply allow human advances and love it. The truth is, it doesn’t always work that way. Not only might some of Benny’s behaviors be learned, they may also be instinctual. Remember, dogs have their own personal space surrounding them just like people and uninvited invasions can be dangerous. Benny may like our Riley, it’s not safe for people to approach Riley, he must go to them first. If a dog-to-person meeting is done right, Riley will not only allow people to pet him all day long he absolutely digs the attention! He literally adores people, but the meeting has to happen according to proper doggie-etiquette.

      The days where people just walk up to any dog and try to get up-close-and-personal really need to end in order for bite incidents to decrease. Anyone wishing to meet a dog should always first ask permission and then follow any rules the dog’s owner lays out. I encourage you to read my article Understanding Dog Bite Behavior or Don’t Blame the Dog When it Bites which should give you a little more insight. There are lots of dogs who will allow people to approach, but if you have a dog that has issues with this rude people behavior, we must respect our dog’s privacy. In a dog’s world, it’s rude for one dog to just walk up to another dog without the faceless sniffing preamble, remember they sniff butts first not faces! Just like people, dogs have reasons for feeling the way they do. As humans we many not understand this behavior but not respecting it will likely get someone bit some day.

      Some dogs don’t like to be patted on the head. Some dogs are afraid of being patted on the head. The human hand coming over the top of their heads can look very much to a dog like the person is going to hit them. Think of this, some stranger comes up to you at a gathering and their personality is very (overly!) friendly. Lets say their friendliness makes you uncomfortable. Maybe you’re the kind of person who needs to get to know a person at least a little bit before you are comfortable with them touching your arm for example. They mean no harm, but you have no way of knowing this and the same can be true for your Benny.

      Also keep in mind that just because every other Springer you’ve had in your lifetime may not have had issues, doesn’t mean that another one won’t. Dogs are individuals just like people. I never had a dog in my life either that I had to deal with on the level I have to deal with our Riley but the fact is that I do now and it’s my responsibility to accept this and deal with it as it in positive pro-active ways. He’s his own dog with his own personality, as is my Nissa, and each of them deserve individual respect for their nature and personalities. Your Benny may *never* be accepting of uninvited human advances into his space and you may never know why.

      There have been quite a lot of things that have happened in our lives here since I originally wrote this article. Not all of Riley’s aggressive behaviors can be contributed to his hypothyroidism. For example, we’ve had so many loose dogs charge us on walks that he’s automatically on the defensive (a.k.a Protection Mode) when another dog is to close, but he’s also very good at ignoring dogs that keep to their own space which he now does really well with on our walks. We learned that there’s a right and a wrong way to allow human to dog meet & greets but that handled correctly with proper sensitivity and understanding of dog-etiquette, we haven’t had any problems with people who respect the rules. These are our dogs and so we set these rules. People who agree to them are greet-able, people who think they don’t have to comply are not allowed to meet our Furkids. We’ve met some very nice people this way while avoiding what could be dangerous situations. When in doubt, walk away.

      Neither of our dogs were raised with kids so they don’t know how to handle normal kid activity. If it’s just you and your partner and you don’t share your lives regularly with kids, Benny doesn’t know how to react to kids either which means he may react in a dangerous way. Our dogs see three of our grandkids enough that they are great with them, but the other four they do not. I would never allow them to interact with the other four until they have time to know them a little. Because kids can be boisterous and quick-moving we limit kid-activity levels in the presence of the dogs. They just don’t know what to do with all the extra noise and commotion of normal kid activity.

      I hope this helps. Please come back let us know how things go.

  16. Jo Ann says:

    This is exactly what happened to my 4-year-old Golden. Chaucer was fine for 4 years, then suddenly started to attack one of our other dogs who he was raised with. My husband travels, so I had to break up dog fights between those two PLUS our Great Pyrenees who would join into the fight. I got bit several times trying to breakup the fights. I actually took a broom and beat the dog during the fight to make him stop as a last resort, but it didn’t work. He was in a frenzy.
    We were just at the point of euthanizing the dog. My husband took him into the vet and she didn’t like the look of his coat and suggested he might have a thyroid problem. At that point we did the blood test and were waiting for results. I went online to read about the disease and was shocked that aggressiveness was one of the symptoms. The vet office had never heard of this before and I was told if that was his problem, I shouldn’t get too hopeful that the meds would help him. Of course, his test came back that he had hypothyroid disease and would have to be on medication the rest of his life. After one pill, the attacking stopped. He has been on the meds for over a year and I have not had one dog fight. He seems to be starting to get more dominating lately, so I am having another test done soon. Just thought I’d share my story.

    • Mom says:

      Hi Jo Ann,

      I’m so grateful you shared with us and even more grateful you were able to find the cause of the aggression issue and fix it! One more dog saved! LOVE IT!

  17. Riley's Place says:

    Hi Jim,

    Your additional info suggests several things that may have caused the bite:

    • He may have been stressed from the fireworks. Our Nissa is terrified of them and if they’re close enough to the dog, it can hurt their ears. Dogs are better off left at home for the fireworks.
    • To him, he may have had a long day and may have needed some alone/quiet time but he can’t tell you this. Romping with kids all day is a great deal of fun for a dog, but it’s also exhausting. As a daily activity, dogs do more sleeping than people. Although dogs will do a darn good job of keeping up with the kids for the most part, they are pushing themselves to do it and a day like this may be out of the ordinary for him and so he’s tuckered out without his naps! He was laying in your lap (a safe zone for him) perhaps trying to get some much needed rest and wanted to be left alone.
    • The big one to me is that the little girl put her arm around him during a time he maybe wasn’t up for affection. Have you ever had someone “get friendly” with you when you weren’t in the mood? Laying in your lap, trying to rest she may have startled him when she put her arm around him. She also invaded his space. Just like people, dogs have “their invisible space” surrounding them and don’t always appreciate it being invaded. They may take it for years but then one day it comes to “enough is enough.”
    • If you didn’t see every little thing that went on between your dog and the children (and I do mean everything) there could have been one that was teasing him or doing something else that made him uncomfortable.
    • A combination of all of the above. When my youngest daughter was 4 she was spending the day at her cousin’s. They had the biggest Akita I’ve ever seen. This dog was raised with 2 kids and was always good with them, a dog no one would think would bite. After a day of play and activity with the kids they went inside and (pooped out) the dog laid down under a table. My daughter went under the table to pet/cuddle with him and he nailed her in the face. He had had it with activity and she approached him in a place he felt he had no way out. Your story sounds quite similar.
    • He may have felt threatened in some way and was defending himself or telling the child to keep away. Remember there can be a huge difference between what a dog and a human consider to be threatening.
    • Unknown to you, she may have leaned on him when she put her arm around him, perhaps hurting a part of his body and he reacted to the pain.

    More often than not if a dog’s going to bite, they’ll do it without warning so the old “but he never growled or showed any indication he was going to bite” is NOT something to be depended upon. Chances are there are warning signs but they are very subtle and unless you’re skilled in picking up on dog behavior signals you won’t see them.

    You may not see anything wrong with him physically, but he could still be in pain from something not visible to the human eye. When you have him tested, I would suggest your vet give him a good going over as well. I would also suggest your vet should also test for potential vitamin B deficiency.

    I would take a good look at his diet as well. He may be allergic to something you’re feeding him or some ingredient in any dry or canned food you’re feeding him. This is particularly important if he’s being fed dry dog food. Some of the preservatives can build up over time, are toxic and can cause issues.

    I don’t recall seeing Lucas’s age mentioned but also keep in mind that as a dog ages they wind up with aches and pains just like people do and can be more quick to get irritable.

    I hope that when this happened that you separated the two quickly but did not take any negative action towards Lucas. A dog should not be punished for protecting himself or for standing up for himself. It sounds like a puncture wound and those are generally considered warnings. If a dog is really wanting to hurt someone, they probably won’t stop with just a “hit and back off” action. This behavior is similar to a human snapping “Leave me alone!” at someone.

  18. Jim Sperry says:

    Hello
    I have a English Springer Spaniel and up until he was 18 months old he was like every dog I have raised, a perfect gentleman, no worries, he went every where with me. Then 6 months ago he just snapped at the dog park and went after a calm dog, it happened again and again. Then he after about 2 hours of being with freinds, a 7 year old girl was with him just sitting and he bit her cheek. I think he has what you describe and I going to get him tested.

    Thank You

    • Mom says:

      Hi Jim,

      That’s a very unfortunate incident, I’m glad you’re going to have your little guy tested and hope you will come back and let us know how the test comes out.

      It is also very important to really look back at the incident and examine very closely what the circumstances were seconds before he bit the little girl. Where was the dog? What was the little girl doing and the dog doing? We found out that Riley is very sensitive to direct eye contact. He takes this as a threat and does react negatively to direct eye contact.

      You may find my Understanding Dog Bite Behavior or Don’t Blame the Dog When it Bites article helpful.

      Good luck!

      • Jim Sperry says:

        Thank You, I will read your article about dog bite do not blame the dog. Lucas had spent 2 hours playing with 3 children and it all went well. It was 4th of July, his 2nd and on the walk up to the park many loud booms went off and he showed no reaction. When the fire works began the family’s and kids went to watch. I stayed back and sat on the ground with Lucas to watch. Lucas sat next to me and I had my arm around his shoulders. One family came back because the fireworks were scaring her. They saw me and sat down. Myself, Lucas, 7 yo girl, Mom and Dad in back. After 10 minutes or so with the girls arm around him also all of a sudden he just turn around and snapped once striking her cheek. She did not look at him, change her position, nothing I could see that would provoke the bite. Lucas was actually laying in my lap sort of sleeping as he got bored with the fireworks when they sat down and then he sat up. The noise seemed to cause it either. The only thing I found when I got home was 2 burrs in his fur around the neck, perhaps one got squeezed and stuck him. But the onset of the aggression towards other dogs, he growled at me several times is all so different to any dog I have raised in the last 40 years.

    • Hsto says:

      Thank you for sharing your story. I wish I’d read it years ago. Had a mixed breed who, at three years old, started showing nervous and reactive behavior towards our then two year old daughter. Turned to vet for help. He was put on ovaban. No bloodwork was run. We didn’t know any better at the time. It was 2006. Meds got us through rough patch between dog and kid but the nervous and reactive behavior continued and got worse. From 2006 – 2008 he gained 36 pounds on 2c food per day. He went from 66 pounds to 102 pounds. Vet never questioned weight gain. Scale was in back and we never saw records. Had no idea at the time. We used to take him running with his older canine brother but had to stop because his behavior became just a bit too unpredictable. He did not read warnings from other dogs well. He did not back down. The only dog he backed down to was our older dog. And despite being the alpha dog, he was a very easy going older brother. At some point he started running and barking at the mail man. Would obsessively run the fence line and bark/yelp/whine to get at anything walking by. He started snarling at anything on wheels, to the point he nearly caused a motorcycle accident on a walk one day when we were not prepared for him to lunge and snarl at a motorcyclist stopped at a stop sign. He developed a fear of thunder. We called him our OCD dog. He had strong herding instincts and having no prior experience with a herding breed, we’d attributed his behavior to his need to herd. To control motion (why wheels drove him crazy). We dog sat a lab who loved to fetch. He played great with her outside. Inside she still wanted to play. After about five minutes his ears went back, nose started twitching and he started making his nervous noises. We had to gait her in another room to keep him from going after her. Our male cat would lay next to him – when he’d start purring loudly the same nervous and reactive behavior would start. We’d have to move the cat before he snapped at him. Father in law’s dog he was fine with as long as he didn’t come near me. As soon as he got too close the ears would go back, nose would twitch and noises started. . He got to the point I could no longer walk him. I couldn’t control him. When the husband walked him we’d hide behind cars, trees, pull u-turns, etc whenever we saw a cat, dog, squirrel, kid on bike, skateboard, stroller, car driving down street, etc… It was a high alert experience. But he needed the exercise. In Nov. 2011 he was dx. with diabetes. The day it was dx, we’d taken him in for routine shots with his older brother. He lasted about 1 min. before the husband had to take him outside to wait until the exam room was free. He barked/yelped/whined/lunged, and everyone in the waiting room looked at us like we’d walked in with a monster. Thing was, when there were no triggers, he had a great heart. He really wanted to be a good dog. Vet dx. diabetes with one blood sample. Never ran any other blood work. No urine sample. Took a vet change and 8 months of struggling control his diabetes to learn he was hypothyroid. His T3, T4, free T3 & free T4 were all very low. His TsH was nearly four times higher than it should have been. He had a fasting chol value of 1055 and fasting trig value of 383. In addition, he was suffering from chronic pancreatitis, though he ate ever day with gusto, never vomited and had normal and regular bm’s. In the first five days of being on thyroid meds his insulin needs dropped by 40%. Two weeks later they dropped another 10%. At his eight week re-check his chol & trig values were back in normal range. Pancreatitis was cleared. Diabetes was well controlled. Unfortunately, he’d lost his vision to cataracts and at some point developed an injury which caused spinal compression. When we went for the neuro consult I went to register him while the husband parked. I walked in to find over 20 cats/dogs waiting in the waiting room. I apologized to the woman when I registered telling her my dog was going to lose his mind and wreak havoc on her waiting room. Because of his neuro problems and blindness, he had not had much exercise outside of the house. We had no idea the full extent of what the meds had done for his behavior. The husband walked him in, sat down between two dogs and he laid down without a peep. The only time he moved was when the dog across from him had a bm accident and he got excited thinking the dog had left him a free treat (LOL!) . The woman probably thought I’d lost my mind. Four months of thyroid treatment and he was calm as could be. He’d stopped trying to eat the cat when he purred. He stopped trying to attack father in laws dog when he was near me. It took six years to figure it out. We’d always said he wasn’t a bad dog, he just got a little crazy at times and had a lot of OCD behaviors. We’d never heard of hypothyroidism. But the signs were there. His vet should have seen them. He medicated him for aggressive behavior. He documented 36 pounds of weight gain in a four year span. He diagnosed the diabetes. He kept him overnight to ‘regulate the diabetes’ – where he would have seen the behavior first hand. We had no idea there was a medical reason behind it. Hypothyroid dogs are unable to clear chol & trigs from their system. High lipids make dogs prone to pancreatitis. Repeated bouts of pancreatitis (which can be subclinical) can lead to diabetes…. And a diabetic dog with high lipids, pancreatitis and untreated hypothyroidism can suffer from insulin resistance. We didn’t know. But his vet should have.

      • Mom says:

        Hi Hsto,

        Wow, that’s quite a story! Your poor dog was riddled with strikes against him!

        I agree that vets don’t know everything. I look at vets the same way I look at people Docs. You have your first level of General Practitioners and it goes up from there. I do not expect my GP to know everything, they’re only the starting point and the same is true of vets. In either case when they find something out of whack they (should!) send us to the next level, a specialist and it goes on from there. Your story goes back a few years which means there was less known than there is now about a lot of things.

        I’ve had to tell our vet about a few things, like Riley’s SLO for one example. SLO is still considered a rare disease but knowledge about it is growing and there are a number of studies being done on it. Our vet had never heard of it, which I did find in my research was probably going to be the case.

        When things like this happen, I want to help other dog owners to help their dogs and so I write about it and I wind up with input from people like you write of their own experiences and this helps spread the word which is perfect! We as dog owners have to be our dog’s pro-active advocates. As a dog lover, I believe sharing what we know is the right thing to do. So, I followed up my original SLO article with this one: What We’ve Learned About Symmetrical Lupoid Onychodystrophy I think it’s great that you took the time to tell us about your dog, now others can learn from your experience which puts a big smile on our faces here.

        I’m sorry it took so long to find out all the things that your dog was suffering from. It must have been hell going through all of this but you sound like a great dog owner, one who doesn’t give up on their ill dogs and keeps fighting until the answers are found. Thank you for that!

        Best of luck to you and your furkids and thank you so much for sharing with us!

        Deb

        • Sarah b says:

          Thank you so much for posting this, it’s giving me hope. ,y shepherd mix has gotten worse over the past three years, we started her on thyroid meds about three months ago, she has been on three different doses and actually seems to be getting worse, she has gone from attacking street dogs to attaching our friends dogs that she used to play with and two nights ago fately wounded our 18 month old chihuahua that she used to play with, tonight she showed her teeth to her best friend of 4 years our pit mix. I too know my sweet baby is still there, but she is breaking my heart, I am taking her back to the vet tomorrow and requesting that they send her blood to California. Keep your fingers crossed for me that they can help her. Thank you again, you make me feel less crazy.

          • Mom says:

            Hi Sarah,

            Wow, this is really bad! I’m so sorry for what’s happening with your furkid. Before you take her to the vet, hit the Hemopet website and grab the paperwork you need to have in order for them to test the blood sample. There should be a spot on there for you to provide your dog’s symptoms which is important for Hemopet to know.

            I think it would be a good idea to not let yourself suffer from a case of tunnel-vision by looking only at hypothyroidism. I’m not a vet but it seems to me the decision to change her thyroid meds so often in just three months is really rushing things. The meds need to build up in her system to a level before they become effective and seems like bouncing the dose around so much in such a short time may not be giving that a chance to happen and get her to a proper therapeutic level.

            She could very well have one or more other health issues going on. If she’s got hip dysplaysia she’s in pain and pain can cause a dog to behave dangerously.

            You may also want to have a look at what you’ve been doing about her vaccination schedule.

            I would definitely look at what you’re feeding her. Allergies to foods are huge for causing health and behavior problems in dogs.

            My suggestion to you is to try to take a deep breath, exhale slowly and then dig into all these/other things and perhaps more rather than getting stuck on just one possibility. By getting stuck on one potential cause you could miss other causes. My fingers are crossed and wishing you and her the best. Keep us posted please?

          • Mom says:

            I received a follow-up response by email from Sarah which I’m pasting in below:

            From Sarah: Thank you so much for your advice and taking the time to reply.

            She doesn’t have any medical issues that I am aware of she runs n swims a lot, however she developed 3 or 4 lumps over the past year or two but the vet said they’re not cancerous. I buy pet Tao wet food and nitro dry kibble, the only people food she gets is organic broccoli and carrots and odd piece of meat my partner gives them.

            She just looks sad, she yawns and licks her lips when we we wipe her feet after a walk. I try to give my babies the best of everything but it breaks my heart that my little guy paid the price, I just need a reason.

            Thank you again, I am going to print out forms and get to the vet today, I can’t live this way.

            **********

            My reply: Sarah, really I hope that you get your answers and that the problem gets resolved. But I also hope you will keep in mind that even if thyroid turns out to be involved that no matter what you will not rule out other possibilities such as the ones I mentioned but they’re not all-inclusive either. There is always the possibility your dog has other health issues and being open to that possibility will help you to help yourself and your dog. For example, even feeding a good food does not mean the food you’re feeding is not affecting your dog negatively. I finally got so sick if manufactured food health issues, vet visits, money spent on tests and prescriptions, food recalls and trying food after food after food that after probably two years of one issue after another — going to a raw diet is the solution that aside from the thyroid issue is what finally worked for us in the overall scheme of things.

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