by BJ Andrews
Why dogs (and people) suffer hypothyroidism, why it is so commonly overlooked, and how to prevent or correct this canine health problem.
If you own, show, or breed a northern breed dog (Akita, Husky, Samoyed, Malamute, etc.) you need to know WHY low thyroid is a greater problem in your breed so you can fix the problem! Most "northern breeds" have low thyroid hormone levels. You will be told it is “hereditary” and indeed it is. But not the way you’d think.
“Hereditary” is a term usually reserved for describing faults in someone else’s bloodline but...
insufficient thyroid hormone levels now affect all breeds - and mongrels.
First some background. I did a study in the mid-70s, motivated after a Japanese judge came to see Sachmo. He had heard about America’s top Akita from AKC and JKC judge Hideo Ito. Ch. Okii Yubi’s Sachmo Of Makoto, ROMXP was already the All-Time top Breed Winner and destined to become the #1 Sire of all AKC Working Breeds.
The long and short of it (he was hard to understand and equally bemused by my southern accent) is that he was quite put off by what we Americans feed our Akitas. "Fish - you know fish? Fish natural!" I can hear him as though it was yesterday. I finally realized the significance of his bewilderment when, pointing at Sachmo, he said "This Japanese dog. Japan is island. We have no cows. Some chicken but very much fish. Feed FISH!"
Realizing the logic in what he said, that week I did a survey of breeders who confided in me when I promised not to use their name. The question was “are you treating for low thyroid?” The answer was overwhelmingly “Yes.” I then called several veterinary friends. Over 80% dispensed Soloxine, the “other” little blue pill - the universal human medication for low thyroid. For perspective, internet hadn't even been thought of back then, this was all by telephone and shorthand notes.
In 2017 Soloxine is still the first choice for hypothyroidism.
I share this with you because nothing has changed! The Japanese judge was right. We take "northern breed" dogs that evolved on fish and feed them corn and wheat…and then we wonder why they all suffer from low thyroid. Fish. High in iodine. You know, the stuff they put in SALT after they've " made it pour as "table salt"….
Decades (and a much smaller breed) later, I re-verified the statistics with veterinarians who took my call because I name-dropped a very prominent vet's name, Dr. Richard Fayer-Hoskins, UNGA Theriogenology Professor.
So let’s back up to arrive at the cause of canine thyroid disease. In the late 60s Frederic Berger, German Breed Warden and Rottweiler authority, told me that most European breeders simply tossed stomach and tripe into the dog pens.
Then, on my first trip to England in the early 1980s, I verified what I had heard about European “dog food” and feeding practices. English dogs were raised on fish scraps, whatever meat there was (mostly offal) and "porridge" or what we now call oat meal. It seems that the first commercially available dog food was wheat-based Kennel Biscuit, (they later added "Ration" to the brand name). Left-over table scraps were standard fare and raw meat (including offal) was added. Thank goodness Europe didn't have much corn and remember, back then grain was NOT pesticide sprayed and genetically modified. So by now you’ve gotten the gist of this.
All breeds evolved on organ meats and fish, high in natural iodine
Some years ago, watching the Iditarod, I noted that most of the dogs were tossed frozen fish for their layover meal. I wonder if they have light-weight dried fish nowadays or if they are fed dry “dog food”? I’ll have to ask Trish Kanzler, eh?
When my friend Tam and I flew out to her home state of California, we followed world-famous Giant Schnauzer breeder Sylvia Hammarstrom as she fed her dogs. We nodded as Sylvia tossed fresh chicken leg quarters to her vibrantly healthy dogs. I would bet her Schnauzers do not have the thyroid problems so rampant in dogs today.
I realize most of you reading this have show dogs and breeding stock but please make your pet owners aware of the rampant problem of (low) thyroid disease.