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Help.....My Sheltie is scratching and itchy all over.

Help.....My Sheltie keeps gaining weight

Help...... My sheltie has terrible allergies

Help........My Sheltie has constant ear infections

Help.......My Shelties skin and coat look awful


If any of these sound familiar, your Sheltie may have "Hypothyroidism".......or "Low Thyroid".  It is one of the most common ailments in this breed, yet it goes undiagnosed MOST of the time.........

A low thyroid Sheltie may display some or all of these symptoms:

  • Overweight!  Weight gain or the inability to lose weight.....ravenous appetite, acts starving all the time.   A sheltie who is overweight and normal diet and exercise don't help.....should be checked for low thyroid.  

  • Skin problems.    Problems will begin on the rear of the dog, on the hips and tail. (usually, not always)   (Thus the term "Thyroid Tail")   When your dog is first experiencing Low Thyroid, you will likely notice hair loss, dry flakey skin on the tail and rear of the dog.   It will progress and spread the longer the dog goes without treatment.   Dry, itchy, flakey skin. (can have terrible dandruff)   The Sheltie may or may not scratch and chew at his skin (depends how infected it is) ...often mis-diagnosed as an allergy.  Mild cases can just involve itchy irritated skin.  The more severe cases often have infected, open sores. These dogs often smell bad because of the infection in the skin, or the resulting yeast infection in the skin from Antibiotic use. Low Thyroid hair loss is most often on the trunk of the body and the tail.  Thyroid tests should be run on any Sheltie with skin problems.

  • Ear infections.  Either bacteria or yeast based. Ongoing or occasional.  The lower the thyroid the more chronic the ear infections become.  If a Sheltie has gone too long with low thyroid, the ears can thicken and become deformed from constant infection.  (Often called Cauliflower Ear)   Any ear infection in a Sheltie should be accompanied by a thyroid test.  When we have a dog come in with an ear infection, the thyroid is the first thing we check.

  • Puppies that are the same size as their littermates but weigh considerably more are the ones that have a thyroid problem in later years. I know this is not scientific.......but this is what we see.

  • Coat problems .... Low Thyroid shelties just don't have healthy looking coats.  It can vary from thin, short, sparse,  fuzzy, and often downy soft fur.   Or, there can be only a thin overcoat, with no undercoat.   In all cases, a low thyroid Sheltie just does not have a nice thick, long coat.  Shelties who have gone years without treatment will often have wide-spread hair loss.  (bald spots)

  • Runny eye or eyes. A clear watery discharge coming from the eye. It is often misdiagnosed as a blocked tear duct.  (note:  a yellow or green discharge from the eye is not low thyroid and should be looked at by your Vet)

  • Behavior problems.......fearfulness, aggression, grumpy, etc

  • Seizures!!

  • Cholesterol deposits (foggy spots) on one or both eyes.  

  • High cholesterol blood test results

  • Inability to be bred......and/or lack of coming into season.   OR....if bred, inability to become pregnant.


This is a "worst case" photo.  The dog in this picture, Marty, has low thyroid that has gone untreated for years. His ears are inflamed and infected. Hair loss is wide-spread.  His skin is oozy and infected in places.  He has runny eyes.   The only reason he is not fat is because he did not have food to eat.   This case is one of the worst we have had.... this is NOT typical, but this IS what will happen if this goes on for years.   Marty's T4 was .8 on a scale of .8 - 3.5    Not really that low.....but disastrous for a Sheltie.

So what does the average low thyroid dog look like?  See below.........

Barney:  Only symptom was his weight of 65 pounds.  Barney now weighs 32 pounds and is happy and healthy.   Barneys T4 was 1.2

Torry:  T4 was .8   Weight was 55 pounds.; on a frame that should weigh 20.  Here is Torry a few months later.  Lost 20 pounds and still losing.

Tammy:  only symptom was chronic, constant ear infections.....so bad that her ears were almost swollen shut.     Tammy made a full recovery.

Marilla's low thyroid robbed her of her coat.  I wish I had "after" pictures, but I don't.  She did make a full recovery and had a large beautiful coat!!

Before and After's

Randy - Before

Here are some close-up pictures of Randy's severely infected ears, caused by Low Thyroid.   This boy was dumped, likely because the ear infection was so bad. Click on photo to see full size image.  Randy made a full recovery....once on Soloxine. 

Randy After--   3 months after starting Soloxine



Lola    6/18/2010
Widespread hair loss.  Open infected sores. Nasty ear infections in both ears.   T4 was 1.0
(considered normal by many tests)


Lola  10/22/2010 
4 months after starting on Thyroid Medication (Soloxine).


Of course there are always other causes of all of these symptoms, but low thyroid needs to be ruled out.

Our group alone places 100-200 shelties per year.   I would easily say that about a third of them are low thyroid.  It is so common that we can now just look at a group of shelties and pick out the ones with low thyroid.

The reason that so many Shelties with Low Thyroid go undiagnosed......is because Shelties need to maintain a higher thyroid level than most other breeds.    A sheltie must always run very high normal to be truly normal.    We suggest making sure the T4 is in the upper 1/2 to 1/3 of normal.  For example; lets say your test's normal range is from .8 - 3.5   If your Sheltie's tests result is 1.2, many tests will call that "normal".  We disagree.  We would like to see a Sheltie test at 2--4 on this scale.  We have seen some extremely sick Shelties that will test at under a 2.   

Important notes:

1)  All the info on this page applies ONLY to Shelties who have low thyroid symptoms. (see above).  If your Sheltie has none of the symptoms listed above, and you simply want to know if your Sheltie is low thyroid, a full Thyroid panel is recommended.

2) Never, ever treat your dog for low thyroid, unless you and your Vet are certain your dog needs it, and you have proven it by blood test.    

3)  All suggestions on Thyroid treatment on this page assume that the dog is in good health otherwise, and all other diseases and conditions have been ruled out.

OK...so how to test.   What test does your Vet offer?  .....we have played with the different tests and symptoms in all of these Shelties.  The test itself doesn't matter as much as knowing the normal range.   The T4 by itself tells us what we need to know.   I know the T4 can vary with many things......but not that much...and not enough to make a difference in what we are looking for.   In other words.........start with the T4.   It may be all you need, and it is far less expensive than the full thyroid panel.

Another interesting scenario we have run into.   Let's say that your Sheltie has one or more  low thyroid symptoms..... but the T4 tests show he is in the upper range already.   Don't give up on thyroid !! Sometimes the old  "If it walks like a duck"  thing applies here.  Your Sheltie could just be starting down the Low Thyroid road.   If you catch it early, great job!!  If the first test does not catch it, continue to test every 2-6 months before you rule it out.

Another problem we have run into a few times, is the T4 can fluctuate slightly during the day. Not much, but sometimes enough to throw you.   If you are convinced of low thyroid in your sheltie and are having trouble proving it.....try having your Vet draw blood for a T4 three times in one day.   Before breakfast,  around 2:00pm, and then at the end of the day.  Then compare and discuss the results.   Some Shelties have just been difficult like this, and it has taken several readings to prove (or rule out) low thyroid.

NOTE:   If testing your Shelties T4 three times in one day, still shows his thyroid high-normal...... then you may very well have something else going on with your dog.  There are other diseases that can mimic low thyroid.   Cushings disease would probably be my next suspect.

Our lab of choice for your dogs thyroid test  is:   http://www.hemopet.org

Also, after reading all this, please know that we are not suggesting that you march in and tell your Vet what to do!   Rather; we are suggesting you share this vital information with your vet, and ask him/her to work with you in solving the problem.    This is not something you can treat by yourself.  However, if your vet is unwilling to listen to you, or refuses to work with you....... well then you have some choices to make.

OK, so now you got your test results back, and they are low.   Now what?    Soloxine is the drug of choice.  We have not had good luck with the generic brands.  Your vet can advise the strength and dose.  (We prefer twice a day treatment over once a day.)   The suggested dosage is .10 per 10 pounds of ideal body weight twice a day.. so for a 30 pound dog it would get .3 in the morning and .3 again at night.  A 20 pound dog will get .2 morning and .2 in the evening..etc.    Please note that dosage is based on ideal body weight.... not current weight.

After 30-45 days on the Soloxine, you should begin to see the symptoms easing away.  It doesn't happen overnight, as it takes Soloxine a month to build up in the system. 

Important note:   Soloxine MUST be given on an empty stomach.   1 hour before, or 3 hours after a meal.

When beginning on Soloxine, ask your vet to check the levels (T4) in 6 weeks  just to make sure the dosage is correct.  Dogs on thyroid medication should test at the very high edge of normal.   The "therapeutic range" is higher.  Don't forget this!   Then check levels yearly after that.  Just remember ......... with Shelties you want the levels in the upper third of normal when first checking it, and at the very high end once on Soloxine.

OK....so you just started your Sheltie on Soloxine.    What do you do about the current problems your dog if suffering from ??    Keep in mind that until the thyroid levels are normal, the infections will just keep recurring.  All you can do at this point is treat the symptoms..   Here are some tips that we use while we wait.......

  • For a greasy coat, (with no skin infection) -- try bathing with Dawn dishwashing liquid.  Works great at cutting through that oil.   Make certain you rinse it well.

  • For smelly, yeasty, or Itchy ears (in between treatment) - squirt a little Monistat in each ear and rub.

  • For ravenous, always starving dogs:  Add warm water to their food, making it soup-like.   Warm water will fill up their stomach more, and make them feel fuller.   Also give 1/2 cup of raw green beans once or twice a day as a snack.   Carrots also work well too.

  • For current ear, skin, or systemic infections, pain, itching or open sores--- discuss with your vet.
    (You still need to get rid of the infection).

Then,  hang in there!!   Help is coming.

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Central Illinois Sheltie Rescue



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