Levothyroxine: Treating Hypothyroidism in Pets

Hypothyroidism can be a challenging condition for our furry friends, but with the right treatment, they can lead happy and healthy lives. Levothyroxine, a thyroid hormone replacement medication, has proven to be an effective solution for managing hypothyroidism in pets. In this article, we will explore what levothyroxine is, how to administer it, potential side effects, risk factors, drug interactions, and monitoring requirements.

What is Levothyroxine?

Levothyroxine, also known by brand names such as Thyro-Tabs Canine®, Synthroid®, Levothroid®, Levoxyl®, Unithroid®, Levo-T®, Eltroxin®, and PMS-Levothyroxine®, is a thyroid hormone replacement medication used to treat hypothyroidism in animals. Hypothyroidism occurs when there is a deficiency of thyroid hormone in the body.

How to Administer Levothyroxine?

Levothyroxine is typically available in the form of tablets or capsules, but it can also be compounded into a liquid for easier administration. The medication can be given with or without food, but it’s crucial to follow the instructions on the label. If your veterinarian prescribes a compounded medication, make sure to adhere to their specific guidelines.

What if I Miss a Dose?

If you accidentally miss a dose of levothyroxine, don’t panic. Administer the missed dose as soon as you remember. However, if it’s close to the time for the next dose, skip the missed dose and resume the regular dosing schedule. Avoid giving your pet two doses at once or extra doses.

Potential Side Effects

When used at appropriate doses, levothyroxine rarely causes side effects in pets. However, in some cases, skin reactions may occur. Allergic reactions can be observed with certain forms of the medication that contain magnesium stearate and polyvinylpyrrolidone. High doses of levothyroxine can lead to signs of hyperthyroidism, such as increased heart rate, appetite, drinking, urination, excitability, nervousness, and panting. Cats may experience anorexia and listlessness with high doses. It’s important to note that these side effects are uncommon.

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Risk Factors

Levothyroxine should not be used in pets with certain heart problems, hyperthyroidism, or untreated Addison’s disease. If your pet has managed Addison’s disease, heart disease, diabetes, or is elderly, it should be used cautiously. If your pet is pregnant or nursing, consult your veterinarian before using this medication.

Drug Interactions

It’s essential to be aware of potential drug interactions when administering levothyroxine. This medication may interact with medications such as amiodarone, oral antacids, tricyclic antidepressants, antidiabetic medications, corticosteroids, digoxin, ferrous sulfate, high-fiber supplements, ketamine, phenobarbital, propylthiouracil, rifampin, sertraline, sucralfate, sympathomimetics, and warfarin. It’s crucial to inform your veterinarian about any medications, including vitamins, supplements, or herbal therapies, that your pet is taking.

Monitoring Requirements

While your pet is on levothyroxine, your veterinarian will monitor their progress to ensure the medication is working effectively. They will periodically check your pet’s blood thyroid hormone levels through thyroid blood work panels. Initially, these levels will be monitored more frequently, and once your pet’s levels are regulated, regular intervals will be established for monitoring.

Storing Levothyroxine

Store levothyroxine tablets at room temperature in a dark, dry place, away from moisture and light. If you have compounded liquids, follow the instructions on the label for appropriate storage recommendations.

In Case of Emergency

If you suspect an overdose or your pet experiences an adverse reaction to the medication, contact your veterinary office immediately. If they are unavailable, follow their instructions for reaching an emergency facility promptly.

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Remember, always consult with your veterinarian before starting any new medication for your pet.