If you’ve been experimenting with raw food treats for your dog you may well have offered your pup chicken, turkey or duck necks. It wouldn’t surprise me if Rover was pawsitively thrilled! And, you might have been feeling pretty good about offering a treat that’s not only tasty, but apparently fun for your pooch to consume. Not only that, if you’ve been doing your homework, you probably came across information indicating that neck meat, tracheas, and gullets are great sources of glucosamine and chondroitin. They tend to be cheap, to boot! So, what’s not to love?
Turns out, feeding too much of these particular raw products may contribute to your pet developing thyrotoxicosis, or hyperthyroidism. When a dog sufferers from hyperthyroidism, too much thyroxine circulates in his body. Thyroxin is a hormone produced naturally in the thyroid gland and in dogs, hyperthyroidism is most often the result of a thyroid gland tumour. But, hyperthyroidism can also be caused by an overabundance of thyroxin originating in their food.
Because the body’s metabolism goes into overdrive with this condition, the dog may experience weight loss despite eating a lot, need to drink a ton of water, exhibit hyper-excitability, pee a lot, and have a racing heart (or show other heart irregularities). How serious is this condition? Untreated, hyperthyroidism can eventually result in heart or kidney failure.
The link is geographic - the thyroid gland is located near the top of the neck. Eating a lot of neck meat or products like tracheas or gullets can result in your dog consuming an unusually large amount of thyroid hormones. Those hormones are not destroyed by the digestion process and, instead, are absorbed into the body. Poultry gullets and tracheas are not the only source of potential trouble. Neck meat from lamb, beef, goat, or pork can also be problematic.
Variety, as they say, is the spice of life. That’s certainly true for formulating the perfect diet for your dog (and you, to be honest). No matter how much your dog loves chewy treats from the neck area, mix it up and provide other options. Likewise, when you are shopping around for a prepared diet, investigate how much neck meat goes into each portion. Neck meat is inexpensive, so it’s not surprising to find some in raw food, but more is not necessarily better. If you are making your own raw food meals, use a variety of sources of meat and bones to reduce the risk of accidentally overwhelming your dog’s system with thyroid hormones.
If the cause of your dog’s hyperthyroidism is dietary, then chances are that feeding less neck meat will reverse the problem. However, you may want to discuss the option of iodine supplementation with your veterinarian. A certain amount of iodine is necessary to promote healthy thyroid function, but it’s easy to miss the mark and take too much, which can lead to a whole slew of other health issues.
The best way to keep ahead of the curve is to pay close attention to any changes in appetite, stool formation, water consumption, and energy levels. If you spend plenty of time with your dog, this is easy. Don’t ignore changes in excitability or activity levels and be vigilant when it comes to monitoring weight loss and gain.
Regular vet checks should be part of your dog’s care regime and a series of standard blood tests and a urinalysis should be part of Pixie’s annual checkup. Thyroxine (T4) levels in the bloodstream may be elevated in hyperthyroidism, though this test is not always a good early warning as T4 levels may not change until the condition is more severe.
The bottom line is, you don’t need to ignore meat or other products originating from the neck, but be careful you don’t overdo it.
At Rawmate, we are always searching for ways to find the best possible balance when it comes to creating your dog’s diet. Check out what our Rawmate subscription meal plan includes and consider letting us handle the details when it comes to how much of which ingredient provides the optimal nutritional balance for your four-legged buddy.