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Thyroid Problems - Hypothyroidism in Boxer Dogs


Hypothyroidism is a canine health issue where the dog’s thyroid glands malfunction. These glands are located on both sides of the neck of a Boxer dog. They release hormones which affect the dog’s metabolism and growth. When this malfunctions, it can lead to many different health issues.

A common predecessor of this is autoimmune thyroid disease and out of all of the purebred dogs, the Boxer ranks 5th for this. One issue with this condition, is that it cannot always be ruled out in regard to breeding. It is thought to be a genetic disease, yet many dogs do not present with symptoms until after the breeding age (2 years for females, 10 months to 1 year for males).

This is not life threatening, yet it can greatly affect quality of life. The thyroid gland produces two different hormones, both which control a dog's metabolism.

The hormones involved are: triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4). With this condition, the gland does not function properly and therefore, thyroid hormone levels fall to a very low level or in some cases, are non-existent.
There are 3 different types of this same disease:
  • Juvenile onset
  • Secondary hypothyroidism
  • Primary hypothyroidism
It is Primary hypothyroidism that is the most common with the Boxer breed. Females and males are affected alike. In regard to primary hypothyroidism (the most common type for this breed) has two main causes.

1- Autoimmune thyroiditis
2- Inflammation of the thyroid gland

With either cause, antibodies in the dog's body seek out and destroy the cells of the thyroid gland. This is why this is considered to be an autoimmune disease. 

The Rate of Progression

One tricky component of this particular disease, is that it behaves differently with no known cause for the varying rates of progression. A Boxer dog can develop this, but may not show clear signs for several years. With others, the rate of destruction of the cells is extremely fast, sometimes occurring within just 3 or 4 months.


A Boxer dog usually will show symptoms between the ages of 4 and 6 years old; however can be diagnosed at any age..

A dog suffering from this health issue does not need to show all of these signs. If your Boxer dog only 2 or more symptoms, a full checkup is needed:

• Weakness

• Sleepiness/ lethargy – Your Boxer may not want to exercise or play as usual and will sleep a lot more than normal [Studies show that 18% of Boxer dogs have this as one of their symptoms]

• Increased appetite

• Weight gain, without an increase of food ingestion [ Studies show that 48% of Boxers show weight gain due to low thyroid levels]

• Sensitivity to cold – Your Boxer dog may shiver even when the room temperature is warm

• The coat can become very dull, dry or in some cases, oily

• Loss of fur – You will notice much more fur loss than normal shedding- in severe cases or cases in which the disease has progresses rapidly or is in advance stages, there may be missing patches of hair, causing issues in regard to skin health. [Studies show that 68% of Boxers have this symptom]

• Hair loss specifically on the sides of the body (referred to as flank alopecia) [Studies show that 9% develop this when suffering from Hypothyroidism]

• A darkening of skin pigmentation (called hyperpigmentation) [Studies show that 31% of Boxer dogs develop this]

• Itchy skin [Studies show that 16% develop this]

• Skin sores and/or skin infections

• Ear inflammation [a symptom in approximately 8% of Boxers with hypothyroidism]

Is this Preventable?

So far, studies have shown that large amounts of vegetables can affect a dog’s thyroid; especially for the Boxer breed which is already prone to this. Beware of feeding your dog human food, such as too much broccoli and cabbage.


This is another tricky element of this disease, it is not always easy to read test results correctly and there can be a lot of misinterpretation. There are 2 main reasons for this:

1) Other health conditions can cause low thyroid levels. This includes: fever (related to numerous conditions) and diabetes.

2)  The symptoms of this are also signs of other conditions. This includes: Allergies (which can cause hair loss) or skin infection.

It is important to note 2 important elements in regard to testing:

1) Blood tests can detect this disease before any symptoms appear, which is promising

2) If a test is negative, this does not clear the dog for life. Within 2 years, it can develop - for this reason, if an owner is encouraged to have their Boxer tested every year for the first 4 years of life, and then, if still negative, testing can be spaced apart every 2 years.

Normal Thyroid Levels for the Boxer Dog:

Blood work will test the level of T4.  Normal levels for this breed are between 1 to 4.

Blood work will test the level of TSH.  The normal level is .6. If the thyroid gland is not producing enough thyroxin (the active thyroid hormone), the levels of TSH will be higher than normal.

Via a blood panel, there will be 4 tests done:
  • T4 - This determines the total thyroxine level
  • TSH - This detects if there is the presence of a naturally occurring thyroid stimulating hormone, a substance that stimulates the thyroid to produce more T3 and T4.
  • FT4 (Free T4) - This will check the amount of usable T4 in the bloodstream.
  • TgAA - Checks the level of antibodies


Thankfully, this is treatable. Your Boxer dog’s veterinarian should prescribe hormone replacement medication. In most cases, a dog will need this medication for the rest of his or her life.

Once a dog is given this treatment, they must be monitored often to make sure that they are receiving the proper dose.

This medication usually works quite well. A Boxer should show signs of increased energy in as little as 2 weeks. If a dog had the symptom of fur loss, within 4 to 6 months most, if not all, of the fur will grow back. All other symptoms should clear up in about 2 months.
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