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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

11 Years
Fair condition
0 found helpful
Fair condition

Has Symptoms

short of breath

Medication Used


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!

Dr. Michele King, DVM
Dr. Michele King, DVM
1611 Recommendations
Thank you for your email. Without examining him, or knowing what medication he is on, and has been on, I can't comment on what you can do at this point. It would be best to have him examined sooner than the two weeks when his appointment is, so that you can ask your veterinarian this question - they will know what medications he has been on, whether they might have caused this to happen, and if there is anything that you need to do in the meantime. I hope that everything goes well with him!

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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German Shepherd
15 Years
Mild condition
0 found helpful
Mild condition

Has Symptoms


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?

Dr. Michele King, DVM
Dr. Michele King, DVM
1611 Recommendations
Dogs don't typically get goiter the way that people do, and there are any number of things that could be causing that lump. Since it has grown, it would be a good idea to have a veterinarian look at it and see what might be going on and if any treatment might be needed.

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Border Collie mixed with JAussie Russell Terrier
13 Years
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

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?

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
3320 Recommendations
If the issue is due to goiter, then options are limited given age and the condition; heavy breathing may be due to the thyroid pressing on the trachea but we would also expect a cough in that situation. The sleeping and resting is most likely related to the an enlarged thyroid but if there are low levels of thyroid hormones, supplementation may be required but you would need to discuss this with your Veterinarian. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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