Independent Thyroid Register for Alaskan Malamutes

Tarni's Story


  Tarni in 2000, before her thyroid problem


 Having read Fionna’s case study about hypothyroidism, which was to be published in the Alaskan Malamute Club of Victoria’s newsletter in February 2003, I started searching for a general article about the condition to publish along with it in the Malamute Mail.


In my ignorance about hypothyroidism I had previously associated it with unexplained weight gain in a dog. As I researched it became obvious that this is not the case at all, in fact one article reported weight gain as only being seen in around 50% of hypothyroid dogs. All the hypothyroid articles I came across highlighted the large list of possible symptoms and emphasised that a dog suffering from hypothyroidism, may exhibit, some of the symptoms and not others, with the most common symptom being that of coat or skin problems.


 Tarni in her prime, before hypothyroidism. She enjoyed sledding activities immensely 


As I read down the list of symptoms, alarm bells started to go off – dry, brittle coat with excessive shedding; sparse coat on both sides of the trunk; “ratty” tail; increased pigmentation in the skin; lethargy; dull demeanour; cold intolerance; hind-quarter weakness; incontinence – these were just some of the possible symptoms but all were exhibited by my Malamute bitch, Tarni. Tarni is 9 years old and has been quite arthritic for a number of years, and I had previously attributed all these minor problems to her arthritis combined with just plain old age. However, not wanting to take any chances I took Tarni to the vet for the necessary tests to be done, and as it turned out it was just as well I did.


The results confirmed that Tarni was indeed quite severely hypothyroid. The normal range for Free Thyroxine (FT4) is 5.5 – 25, but Tarni’s level was less than 1. Thinking back I now realise that Tarni may well have been suffering from hypothyroidism for quite some time, but I am thankful that it did eventually get diagnosed when it could so easily have gone on unrecognised – better late than never...


 It is quite obvious in this photo taken in December 2002 that Tarni has a problem. The condition of the coat tells the story.


Tarni is now on thyroxine tablets which she will have twice a day for the remainder of her life. Already after only a week of medication we are seeing quite obvious behavioural improvements – Tarni over the past few days has been much more active (even playing with Kiska), has increased alertness and generally a much happier demeanour – gone is that miserable “hang-dog” look. It could be months before we see changes in coat and skin condition, but we are hoping to eventually see an improvement in this and some of the other symptoms we now know are due to her hypothyroidism.


The fact that Fionna’s bitch, Niki, and my Tarni exhibited quite different symptoms of the same condition is just typical of hypothyroidism. Despite Tarni’s T4 levels being much, much lower than those of Niki, Tarni does not suffer from the obesity that Niki exhibited – I can best describe Tarni’s symptoms as being those of a dog who was old before her time, yet no one symptom on its own was enough to raise the alarm.


 Kiska is glad to have his sledding mate Tarni (on left) back! Taken August 2003, 8 months after starting medication.


Had Fionna’s case study not drawn my attention to hypothyroidism and it’s many and varied symptoms, I may never have cottoned onto the fact that all the relatively minor symptoms that Tarni was exhibiting could all be attributed to an under active thyroid gland. So my message to you is this. If your Malamute is suffering from any of the symptoms outlined in any of the case studies, please get your dog tested for hypothyroidism just to be on the safe side. Diagnosis can be done from a blood sample and the treatment is cheap and easy - better to check it out than to risk having your dog suffer unnecessarily from this debilitating but easily overlooked condition.

Contact Details

Fionna Paton
Gold Coast, QLD, Australia
Phone : 0419 561 009
Email : [email protected]