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Aside from more antibiotics for Bowdu’s feet, I’m asking my vet to test his thyroid levels based on the following observations:

Photo taken 14 July 2010

— Bowdu’s been more lethargic for some time now. This could be the side effect of Temaril-P, but his energy levels have obviously not been the same. He tires quickly on long walks, and will take advantage of a pause to lie down and rest, if I wait too long.

Photo from 17 August 2010

Weight gain. He’s at 33 pounds now, up from 29 pounds last fall, about 28 pounds the year before. It’s not a super dramatic jump in weight, but he is definitely chubby though he only gets 9 nuggets of Primal Raw a day plus minimal treats.

Skin infections. He’s been treated for infections due to broken paw pads twice now, and this upcoming visit will probably be the third, as his paw gets really swollen and pink when he does manage to lick it — believe me, we’re trying to make sure he doesn’t!

Photo taken 7 August 2010

Hair loss. His tail is still quite bushy, no “rat’s tail”, but there’s been significant hair loss around his neck/collar area, though he hasn’t been scratching himself there excessively. This could be due to the plastic cone or seasonal coat changes. The main thing is that his skin itself doesn’t appear to be marked, but his hair has been falling right out as if the follicles no longer hold.

Musky, distinctive “dog” odor. He’s a shiba! He usually NEVER smells like this!

Photo taken 13 July 2010

Discoloration of the skin, especially inside of his thighs and armpits. I’m not sure what color the skin turns on dogs with thyroid problems. His is currently very pink and even dark gray/black in some spots. Obviously, the primary reason for his black, calloused skin is due to him licking himself, like his front left paw above (the photo was taken when it was at his worst). But I wonder if his skin would’ve gotten as dark as it did if there wasn’t something else going on? I don’t know.

Photo taken 4 April 2010

Dry, brittle hair. This is more evident by touch than by photos, because he still looks so fluffy most of the time. His back and chest are fine, but the fur on his back legs/thigh is pretty rough. I was thinking that his fur is often like this in the summer, so again, it may be more associated with seasonal coat changes and not necessarily hypothyroidism. However, I dug up a picture from earlier in the year that gives a good visual indication of the dryness of his fur, shown above. Bowpi had been with us for less than two weeks, he had just started on Temaril-P and his paws were not yet calloused though if I recall, the black spots had just started to appear on his digits.

Erratic behavior. Granted, Bowdu’s generally pretty “cranky,” to the point where we joke about him being a “Grumpy Old Man” or a “Hothead.” But looking at the scar on my wrist from a bite that’s still healing, I’m wondering if there could be a medical explanation for his bouts of violence.

I haven’t written much about this, because it’s complex and a touchy subject and one of the most difficult things to discuss about our shiba. The short version is that he has been known to bite. What leads up to the bite is usually quite easy to explain. In this particular instance, I was trying to dissuade him from licking his foot and I came up on him far too quickly and physically startled him — it was very poor judgment on my part. But he has not always been so quick to retaliate with his teeth. On the other hand, his relationship with Bowpi has only improved over time, so I’m not sure how to explain his behavioral changes. One commentator, Marie, over at Inu Baka (a wonderful multi-dog shiba blog, whose author has been pondering hypothyroidism as well) noted that “Thyroid issues are a very common problem in akitas. So common that for any aggressive akita the first thing we recommend in rescue is to do a thyroid test.” Which leads me to my last bullet point.

Breed prevalence of hypothyroidism? It is prevalent enough in Akitas that it is noted. The National Shiba Club of America describes hypothyroidism as “not uncommon” in Shibas. But it is disappointing that Shiba breeders as a group don’t consider it notable enough to test or register thyroid health, as they don’t even crack the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals list for breeds having at least 50 evaluations between January 1974 through December 2009. To be fair, Shiba Inu were not recognized by the AKC until 1992, but that still leaves a lot of time for them to have accumulated 50 thyroid evaluations from US breeders, especially if the national breed club association has noted it to be a health issue of possible concern. The Akita is on the list, with 77.6% out of 415 testing normal for thyroids. So are Basenji, with 82.9% normal out of 251.

In fact, I first heard about thyroids being linked to behavioral as well as skin problems from Basenji folks. Kudos to Basenji breeders for being proactive about registering thyroid (as well as Fanconi!) information with the OFA, and making that an integral part of responsible breeding practices. As I hear more and more about Shibas with thyroid problems, I’m hoping that Shiba breeders will do the same, if only to help formulate a more complete breed profile.

EDIT 19 August 2010: I just found the .pdf file from the Diagnostic Center for Population and Animal Health at Michigan State University (East Lansing, MI) breaking down thyroid statistics by breed. This file was not appearing on the OFA website when I checked.

It’s located here:

Scroll down to the file “Canine Thyroid Registry Information.”

The stats are up through 2005. Of 305 Shiba tested, 2.3% tested for autoimmune thyroiditis and 3.0% were equivocal. That puts them at rank 127 of 140 breeds.

Akita, by contrast, at rank #46:
2673 Akita tested, 8.6% autoimmune thyroiditis, 8.2% equivocal.

Basenji are ranked at #35:
741 Basenji tested, 10.8% autoimmune thyroiditis, 5.5% equivocal.

Some breeds from the MSU list show significant discrepancies as compared to the OFA testings.