Diagnostic skills

Boogie before any muscle wasting his head
Boogie before any muscle wasting on his head

By Brigitte Barton

I have a pedigree Border Collie, Boogie, who will be 9 years old in a few weeks’ time. He was neutered at almost two years of age.

Within the next couple of years post neutering I noticed his beautiful coat changing so that it became poor quality, and the bone which protrudes at the centre of a dog’s skull became very pronounced. I also noticed that somehow his head looked too small for his body. I thought he was totally out of proportion – or was it just a weight problem? He was put on a diet but nothing changed drastically.

Boogie's head shape changed due to muscle wasting
Boogie’s head shape changed due to muscle wasting and the bone which protrudes at the centre of a dog’s skull became very pronounced.

As he did not display any symptoms of illness I just thought that his looks were due to bad breeding. Although his pedigree is outstanding there is always the one throwback… He stopped playing like a lunatic, which I put down to his growing up.

I once mentioned to my vet that my dog’s looks had changed dramatically, and how beautiful he used to be. My vet said the change to his appearance was due to cranial nerve damage. This injury can occur due to a severe knock on the head or bad breeding. My dog has never been involved in an accident and I put it down to poor breeding. I felt very sad that there was no treatment but my consolation was that his health was excellent – as it should be for a raw fed dog.

 

boogie-shortly-before-thyroid-treatment
Boogie’s change in head shape was quite pronouced

About six weeks ago I read the book ‘The Canine Thyroid Epidemic’ by Dr. Jean Dodds, a vet in America who runs a very professional and technically advanced laboratory specialising in thyroid disorders. On page 13 she mentioned muscle wasting, on page 137 facial muscle waste… and my alarm bells went into overdrive!

The very next day I was at my vet’s – whom I trust totally in his diagnostic skills. He is a very clever man and excellent veterinarian. He admitted that he had never heard of the thyroid and muscle waste connection. He said that hypothyroidism is to blame for lots of illnesses and therefore behaviour problems in dogs, but muscle waste is new to him. We looked at my dog as a whole: poor quality coat, overweight, lethargic, bump on his head… and wondered if it pointed towards hypothyroidism.

We decided to give it a try and put him on thyroid medication. He was given half a tablet twice a day, and my vet wanted to see him again two weeks later – and said if it was hypothyroidism I would see drastic changes within a month.

Boogie before muscle wasting changed his head shape
Boogie before his hypothyroidism

After just four days Boogie became lively! As a young dog he used to run through the hall into the lounge and use the rug on the floor as a skateboard to surf through my lounge. Great fun!! And that’s just what he did again after years of doing nothing. Outside on walks he was beginning to run around instead of slowly walking behind me. He started doing so many things I had totally forgotten. I had my old dog back!

After two weeks I returned to my vet and told him about the incredible changes I had noticed since the treatment began. He said to leave my dog on the thyroid treatment and he was sure that his head would develop muscle again over time but that this will take much longer. Meanwhile the weight is beginning to go down and his coat is growing more lustrous. My vet also told me that he would never have treated Boogie for hypothyroidism and was so pleased that I had pointed my suspicion out to him, and he will take this on board now for other dogs.

I mentioned this to a Border Collie breeder recently and she told me that she knows of a Border Collie who had also been diagnosed with cranial nerve damage until a vet saw a connection between that symptom and hypothyroidism. After receiving medication for about a year the muscle waste in the face began to disappear. There is still a little way to go but the dog looks normal again. So I live in hope.

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