It sounds mad doesn’t it? That medical professionals across all species, may know more and do more for animals with thyroid problems.
But it seems to be true!
I’ve read multiple times, from hypothyroid patients in my Facebook support group, that they’re baffled when they take their dog to the vet, discover he or she has hypothyroidism, and then they seemingly receive better treatment than them. And the vet has a wider understanding of the condition, than their own GP.
Now, basic knowledge to be aware of when it comes to thyroid testing is that we should never go by TSH alone, and this should always always always form just part of the picture, with the other crucial thyroid tests also coming in to play to give the full picture. Free T3, Free T4, Reverse T3 and Thyroid antibodies are all very important when gaining an insight in to what’s going on with our thyroid health too and form the full thyroid panel.
However, most patients will know that it’s hard to find a doctor who is willing to run all of these tests, let alone listen to what is wrong with just testing TSH alone. But when it comes to vets, these medical professionals entrusted with looking after our furry family members, seem to understand the importance of testing a full thyroid panel.
Yes, animals can develop thyroid problems too, just like many other conditions that both humans and animals share (diabetes, arthritis, cancer etc.). Hyperthyroidism is particularly prevalent among cats, whilst hypothyroidism is often seen in dogs. Animals tend to experience the same kind of symptoms we’re familiar with, with fatigue, weight gain, cold intolerance and hair loss for hypothyroidism and weight loss, diarrhoea, increased appetite and energy for hyperthyroidism. Obviously getting them to a vet as soon as any animal shows signs of illness is crucial in their ability to recover, and when an animal is taken to a vet with suspected thyroid issues, the vet will run a full thyroid panel, including those tests your doctor may be refusing you. Countless times have I read a befuddled thyroid patient’s question about how their dog has received that Free T3 test that their doctor keeps denying, which seems mad.
The thing is, most vets recognise the importance of testing all these levels and gaining the full picture in order to give the animal the best possible treatment (usually synthetic T4 medication). You could argue that since we pay for vet care and bills can come to a lot, that we’re getting what we pay for, and for those of us on the NHS in the UK or insurance plans in the US, this is a reflection of what costs these can cover. Running five tests over one can, of course, save money. But when we’re left inadequately treated due to insufficient testing, and thus require more doctors visits, several medications and more of the doctor’s time, is this really worth it? Does it really save money?
How can our very own pets be receiving better treatment than us? The people who are responsible for looking after them?
I’d be interested to know what doctors faced with the fact that animals receive better testing than us, think. Imagine putting a vet and a GP in to a room and having them debate the importance of testing all thyroid levels in both humans and animals. I’d pay to see that.
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Written by Rachel, The Invisible Hypothyroidism
Rachel is a Thyroid Patient Advocate and Expert with Six WEGO Award Nominations, a highly ranked writer appearing in the Top Hypothyroidism Websites and Top Thyroid Websites 2018. Currently studying to become a Life Coach, she has worked with The National Academy of Hypothyroidism, The BBC, The Mighty, Dr. Hedberg, Thyroid UK and ThyroidChange, to name just a few. She is well recognised as a trusted and useful contributor to the thyroid community and has relevant qualifications and certificates in Diet and Nutrition, Reflexology, Motivational Speaking and Positive Thinking.