What is Goiter?
Goiters in dogs will occur when your dog’s thyroid is not properly functioning or the pituitary gland does not provide the right signals to the thyroid. A goiter can occur at any time, in any breed and at any age.
Goiter in dogs occurs when the thyroid gland swells and becomes enlarged. It is a benign condition that signals to your veterinarian that there is an underlying medical condition that will require treatment. The thyroid gland is located just to the front of the trachea, close to the base of the neck. It absorbs iodine and converts the iodine into the thyroid hormones triiodothyronine and thyroxine. The thyroid hormones are released throughout your dog’s body to assist with metabolism, cell growth and sustenance. The thyroid stimulating hormone or TSH is released from the pituitary gland and tells the thyroid to release each of the thyroid hormones and how much.
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Symptoms of Goiter in Dogs
While a goiter in your dog is not generally harmful, you may become alarmed at the size of it. In some instances, problems or complications can arise when your dog has a goiter. Your veterinarian will need to treat not just the goiter but the thyroid condition that is causing the problem. Symptoms of a goiter to watch for include:
- Difficulty swallowing
- Shortness of breath at rest
- Shortness of breath during activities
- Wheezing sounds when breathing
- Refusing to eat
- Sudden and dramatic weight loss
Causes of Goiter in Dogs
The pituitary gland within the brain works with the thyroid gland to ensure that the right amount of hormones are being released and circulated throughout your dog’s body. If your dog’s brain determines that the thyroid gland is not producing enough or is producing too much of the thyroid hormones it signals the thyroid to produce more or less of the hormones.
The constant signaling of the thyroid gland by the pituitary gland and brain can cause the cells within the thyroid to multiply. This results in an enlarged thyroid gland. This enlargement or swelling of the thyroid gland is diagnosed as a goiter.
Diagnosis of Goiter in Dogs
Your veterinarian will begin by palpating the area that is swelling. They will then do a complete physical examination, checking your dog’s heart, lungs, temperature and doing palpations throughout the body to ensure that the swelling is localized to the thyroid gland.
A complete blood count, biochemistry panel and urinalysis will be conducted. Your veterinarian will test your dog’s thyroid function. Dogs that are diagnosed with hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism are at a greater risk of developing a goiter. A complete medical history will also need to be given to aid in proper diagnosis.
Thyroid imaging and scanning can be done to help locate thyroid tissue and determine the size of the goiter. These tests will confirm a diagnosis and help your veterinarian determine which treatments will work best for your dog. A biopsy of the thyroid may be necessary.
Once your veterinarian has diagnosed that your dog has a goiter, they can then discuss treatment options with you. The underlying thyroid problem will need to be addressed in order for the goiter to be resolved.
Treatment of Goiter in Dogs
Your veterinarian will discuss the different treatments that may be available for your dog depending on the size of the goiter and the underlying thyroid condition causing the goiter.
In cases where the goiter is relatively small, they will eventually resolve on their own once the thyroid condition has been treated. Your veterinarian will closely monitor your dog’s progress throughout treatments to ensure that the goiter is receding.
There are some dogs that have a goiter that is too large to recede without intervention. In these cases, surgical removal of the goiter is necessary. This is done under general anesthetic. Generally, when the goiter is removed, the entire thyroid gland is also removed; this procedure is called a thyroidectomy. Dogs have two thyroid glands and when one of those glands is completely removed, hormone replacement therapy must be conducted to compensate for the loss.
Recovery of Goiter in Dogs
If your dog had to have surgery to remove the goiter and the thyroid gland, post-surgical care will be required. This will include keeping the wound clean and dry as well as keeping your dog from scratching at the sutures. Antibiotics and anti-inflammatory medications may be prescribed for your dog following surgery.
You will want to complete all follow up visits with your veterinarian to ensure that your dog is healing well. Your veterinarian will be able to give you an accurate timeline for recovery once they see how well your dog is responding to treatments.
Goiter Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
My Cockapoo's has a enlarged thyroid. His Medication warned me of his thyroid. The swelling has gone down but I'd like to know is there anything I can do meanwhile, his appointment is in another two weeks. There were two other Medication two months ago but I threw the bottles away once he finished. Thank you!
Yeah that's weird or added the medicine it's cefpodoxime proxetil tabs 100mg, apoquel (oclacitinib) 3. 6mg, thyroxine .1mg, codeine tab 15mg
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Growth on left side on neck. Has been growing larger since first noticed about 6 months ago. Now size of tennis ball but oblong shaped. Does not seem to bother him except that he rests/sleeps most of the time. Breathing is somewhat heavy. Still walks about 2 miles per day. Back legs seem to be giving out somewhat. Our vet decided that operating to remove the growth would be too dangerous due to his age. YOur advice?
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I adopted a 10 year old German Sheperd 5 years ago.He had a small lump near his neck that is now about the size of a small golf ball.At his advanced age,would he and the goiter situaion benefit with a thyroid supplement or other medication?
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