The Connection Between
HEALTH & BEHAVIOR
There is a direct connection between how you feel and how you act. Dogs who don't feel well due to chronic illness, pain or discomfort typically have a lower threshold for aggression. They may withdraw from physical contact or actively attempt to drive away even friendly attempts at interaction by strangers or family.
Simple allergies can cause a dog to be short tempered. Imagine wearing an itchy wool sweater 24 hours a day that you couldn't take off. Imagine living with ears that itch, feet that burn and not being able to find relief. You'd be cranky, too! Physical ailments like hip dysplasia, back problems, or diminished sight or hearing can also have a profound effect on how your dog perceives and responds to the world.
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IS IT REALLY A BEHAVIOR PROBLEM?
you start with a behavior modification program,
Your health questions answered at www.doggedhealth.com
THYROID and its effects on AGGRESSIVE or FEARFUL BEHAVIOR
Dogs who were "fine" and then suddenly aren't should be taken to the veterinarian for a complete health exam, including a complete blood panel. Behavioral symptoms often have a physical source.
Studies show a direct correlation between borderline thyroid scores and aberrant behavior, including aggression, shy or fearful behavior and seizure activity. Seizures can range from minor "fly-catching" or light and shadow chasing to more typical seizures.
The key word here is BORDERLINE.
"In dogs, as in humans, behavioral signs often precede the more traditional skin, coat and metabolic changes characteristic of the condition. To diagnose hypothyroidism we rely upon the six analyte panel offered by Antech Diagnostics, Irvine CA (as well as Michigan State University). These panels are interpreted for us by W. Jean Dodds DVM of Hemopet. Following her lead, we believe that truly euthyroid dogs in most breeds should have hormonal levels falling in the upper half of previously accepted normal ranges, This is particularly true of dogs under 18 months of age. We feel that the panel gives a clearer picture of overall thyroid function. Indeed of the cases treated so far only about 40% would have been considered hypothyroid on a standard T4 test, the rest would mostly fall in the borderline category. Some cases in which elevated autoantibody levels indicate autoimmune disease would otherwise have been considered thyroid normal at the time of presentation." - L.P. Aronson DVM & N.H. Dodman RVMS
"At Tufts we have seriously considered obtaining a thyroid panel on all dogs presented for evaluation, and we feel that it is a very good screen for a condition which may underlie a wide variety of behavioral problems, and one which is relatively easily and cheaply treated. It is our recommendation that hypothyroidism be considered as a rule out for dogs and horses showing inappropriate aggression. It should also be a rule out for dogs which show an inability to learn or concentrate on the owner, or for older dogs which have developed a personality change either rapidly or more gradually. It is probably a good rule out for dogs which exhibit fears or anxieties and possibly for some dogs with compulsive disorders." - L.P. Aronson DVM & N.H. Dodman RVMS
Routine lab testing will be looking for scores outside the "normal" range - however to accurately diagnose borderline scores that may be the source of abnormal behavior, your vet may recommend sending your pet's blood work to a university or lab that specializes in endocrine diagnostics, rather than a local lab, to rule out thyroid as a behavior cause. We encourage you to pursue this additional testing as we have personally counseled several cases where a trip to the vet and a prescription for soloxine was the whole solution, saving the client weeks and months and money wasted on behavior modification which would have done little good, as the source was medical not behavioral. . (Note: Soloxine is the preferred source of hormone replacement in the dog according to Dr. Dave Bruyette, DACVIM since generic products are inconsistent in the formulations and therefore in results. )
Research done at Auburn University indicates that in-house T4 tests are unreliable and inaccurate 52% of the time in dogs. "Having treated lots of animals for hypothyroidism, the most important thing I can recommend is the [full] panel versus the total T4. Every time I think that you can tell something by doing a total T4, I'm mistaken," says Dr. Whitney Pressler, DVM. -Whole Dog Journal article, "Help for Hypothyroidism", June 2005.
We encourage all of our clients to have their veterinarian involved up front in treating any behavioral problem that could possibly have a medical side to it, either as an etiology or solution. It is important to get the big picture and treat the whole animal and not just the behavior.
to send samples:
To send to Michigan State:
Submittal forms can be downloaded at this location.
Animal Health Diagnostic
Laboratory, Endocrine Diagnostic Section
B629 W.Fee Hall-B, Michigan State University
Lansing, MI 48824-1315
Laboratory, New York State College of Veterinary Medicine
Cornell University, Upper Tower Rd
Ithaca, NY 14851
Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory,
Attn. Sample Handling
College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Minnesota
1333 Gortner Ave.
St.Paul, MN 55108
Animal Health Laboratory,
University of Guelph
Bldg. 49, McIntosh Lane
Guelph, Ont Canada N1G 2W1
University of California,
Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital
Clinical Pathology, Chemistry, Room 101,
1 Garrod Drive
Davis, CA 95616
Texas Veterinary Medical
1 Sippel Rd. College Station, TX 77843
Articles on the link between Behavior & Thyroid:
SYMPOSIUM ON CANINE HYPOTHYROIDISM UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA AT DAVIS
The Symposium was held at the University Of California at Davis in August 1996. To obtain the very valuable notes on this symposium write to the following address and ask for the WHITE PAPERS on Canine Hypothyroidism and send $5.00 US funds to: Cindy Foust, AKC/CHF, 251 W Garfield Rd, Suite 160, AURORA, OH, 44202
Dysfunction as a Cause of Aggression in Dogs and Cats -L.P. Aronson DVM & N.H.
Thyroid Can Alter Behavior - W. Jean Dodds DVM
Behavioral Changes Associated with Thyroid Dysfunction in Dogs - W. Jean Dodds, DVM and Linda P. Aronson, DVM
Aggression article - Akita Rescue
Thyroid Testing in Dogs - Karen J. Wolfsheimer D.V.M. Ph.D.
Pesticides and Aggression
How to Read Your Dog's Thyroid Test - in pdf format
What's the Big Deal About a Little Thyroid? -Great Dane Health Foundation of America, Inc.
from one of our clients:
Thought you might be interested in an update on Lily.
I took Lily to get her blood drawn the week before Thanksgiving. The vet was very skeptical about even doing the test, despite the fact that Lily had gained 10 lbs. in 2 months with no change in diet or exercise level. In addition, he was totally opposed to having Jean Dodd's group doing the bloodwork. He called her "a pain in the ass", and agreed to having Michigan State do the test, which cost me about $100 more. He was convinced that this was a behavioral problem, and was pushing a WSU behavioral specialist. Before proceeding, however, I wanted the results of the test.
Due to the Thanksgiving holiday, the results took about 3 weeks to arrive. Lily's tests were inconclusive (borderline), but Michigan State's recommendation was that if she was exhibiting symptoms she should be treated.
Lily has been on medication for about 3 weeks. She's got her energy, playfulness, and sense of humor back. She's back playing with her kitties, playing with us, and is much more tolerant of exuberant puppies and much less grouchy overall. As you know, Rottweiler owners can't afford to have grouchy dogs!
Thanks for your help. I think that Dr. ----- is a good vet, but I think you have to be as aggressive with your pet's medical care as you are with your own. It pays to have some knowledge at your fingertips.
Have a great holiday season and a happy new year!
Jennifer, Jon and Jessica R.
Lily, Milo and Abby
And another testimonial:
Hello Everyone, I thought I would just let you all know at once what is going on around here......you are all folks who have either known Jessie and her quirks forever, or who have heard about some of them!
This past winter, she appeared to be regressing in both her natural behaviors and her obedience. She only seemed happy when she was at home; otherwise her tail was plastered to her bottom, even for walks in favorite parks. I mentioned this on one of my internet lists, and a trainer wrote back right away telling me to have a complete thyroid panel and consult Jean Dodds. Steward was skeptical, as Jess still had an extremely thick, healthy coat, and was still extremely active for her age (almost 7). But I did some quick research, and showed him that some dogs only exhibit behavior changes when their thyroid goes off. Some dogs only become aggressive when they hadn't been before....
So off we went to the vets that same day. Jessie was borderline all across the board, and went on Soloxine two weeks ago. Within two days we saw the old sparkle in her eyes that she had as a pup. Within three days she had reverted to her yearling stage jet propelled energy levels. In one week she seemed to enjoy walks away from home more, as long as they weren't in high traffic areas. Then the fun started. She began testing us like an adolescent who tried to make us think she has never learned anything! So this past week we have been "reviewing" our obedience, and the fact that one must really actually do it if Mom says so. She is still checking now and then, but is much improved in that area. We went back to Rally class Thursday evening (missed the first week as I was sick), and she stayed focused on me for the entire 18 station course. Add three stations that we repeated because of HANDLER error, and that makes 21 stations. This had never happened before, even on short courses. She once began to look at something else, and I had no trouble whatsoever getting her attention back and didn't lose it again.
It is like having a new dog that we have have to get to know all over again. She is a very tough bitch, as opposed to the fearful reactive dog we had such a short time ago. She is still very opinionated and if she doesn't care for something, she lets us know. But she seems uncomfortable or wary, not scared. Some behaviors she will have to "unlearn" but it is doable, I think. At least we will work at it.
It is interesting to sort out what is Jessie, and what was caused by her condition. Her troubles began when she was about 18 months old. My trainer friend tells me that reactive dogs often don't show this behavior until they are 18-32 months old. Jean Dodds says that the most common age at diagnosis of canine hypothyroidism is 18 months. Hmmmmmm. I am suspicious that she was low normal during that period, and just recently went lower. I feel terrible that we might have made her life better long ago if we had known. Given that she was the happiest and most thorougly socialized puppy we ever had, I have always felt there had to be an explanation. She wasn't classically reactive, and not timid. There didn't seem to be any explanation for her behavior. She has many character traits and personality traits in common with a litter sister named Abby, but Abby never exhibited fear or reactivity. She just isn't crazy about every dog she sees, as I understand it, and neither is Jess.
So onward and upward with our "new" dog!
- Kathy Robbins