A diagnosis of hypothyroidism in your dog seems simple enough at first. Your dog’s thyroid glands are just not producing enough hormones, leading to symptoms like lethargy, weight gain, cold intolerance, skin issues, and even behavioral changes. As a result, your dog will need hormone replacement therapy.
The reality is nothing about hypothyroidism is simple. And while conventional veterinary medicine is quick to jump on synthetic thyroid hormone replacement for lifelong treatment, many of us want more natural treatment options.
Certified Veterinary Homeopath Dr Jeff Feinman offers one alternative by way of homeopathy, a form of treatment developed at the end of 18th century Germany based on the concept of “like cures like” – meaning a substance normally causing a particular illness in a healthy person or animal can cure someone who is sick with that illness. The substance, which can come from a plant, mineral or animal, is usually highly diluted.
“Homeopathy back in the 1800s was on its way to being the foremost medicine,” Feinman says. “It’s the way everything should be treated, in my book.”
Feinman categorizes treating disease into three different approaches: cure (it goes away without further treatment necessary), palliation (requiring repeated, lifelong treatment) and suppression of the disease. Homeopathy, he says, aims to cure by stimulating the body to heal itself.
“We’re getting the body to do all the work,” he says. “We’re just giving it the template to do it.”
Hypothyroidism presents a particular challenge since in many cases the disease is caused by a basic dysfunction in the immune system. In up to 80% of cases, the disease is caused by autoimmune destruction of the thyroid gland (autoimmune thyroiditis), according to thyroid expert and veterinarian Dr W Jean Dodds. According to Dodds, the remaining 15 to 20% of hypothyroid cases in dogs are typically familial (run in the family) and are due to idiopathic thyroid atrophy, meaning that the thyroid gland is progressively destroyed by an unknown cause.
While the homeopathic approach is to minimize and eventually cure the autoimmune thyroiditis, Feinman says whatever is causing the negative thyroid loop and destruction of the thyroid must first be stopped. If the thyroid is destroyed and the body cannot produce enough hormones to heal itself, then homeopathy can’t stimulate the body to cure itself.
In order to get to the bottom of things, the homeopath must look at the dog’s entire history and symptoms and select a homeopathic medicine based on the individual. Feinman estimates there are more than 60 homeopathic medicines that are associated with hypothyroidism treatment.
“It really is individual,” says Feinman. “So one medicine that we treat one animal with may have nothing to do with what the other one has.”
The late holistic veterinarian Dr Gloria Dodd attributed much of the disruption of the endocrine gland balance (including thyroid, pituitary, adrenal and sex endocrine glands) to environmental factors including chemicals like pesticides, water and food pollutants, flea, tick and heart worm preventatives, vaccinations, steroids, and non-beneficial energy fields in the home from electrical appliances, cell phones, etc. Her hypothyroidism treatment protocol includes use of natural glandular thyroid extracts, homeopathic remedies, detoxification, diet changes and cleaning of those energy fields in the home.
Dr Marty Goldstein, renowned pioneer of holistic and integrative veterinary medicine, takes a nutraceutical approach to hypothyroidism. Smith Ridge Veterinary Hospital in New York state where Dr Goldstein is medical director uses the Nutritional Blood Test to analyze an animal’s blood for signs of metabolic weaknesses and then develop a customized, powdered blend of vitamins, minerals, nutrients, and glandulars to feed the pet.
“The goal of nutraceutical therapy is to restore cellular health throughout the body,” says Goldstein. “When cellular function becomes optimal, improved health follows.”