A 178-kg, 14-yr-old captive female American black bear (Ursus americanus) was examined because of lethargy, inappetance, obesity, and alopecia. Serum chemistry and complete blood count values were within normal limits. Based on serum levels for total thyroxine (T4), free T4 by equilibrium dialysis (fT4ED), and canine thyroid-stimulating hormone concentrations, using assays validated for domestic dogs, hypothyroidism was diagnosed presumptively, and therapy with levothyroxine sodium (0.022 mg/kg p.o. b.i.d.) was initiated. Haircoat, body weight, appetite, and activity level improved within 30 days. The levothyroxine dose was decreased twice (to 0.018 mg/kg p.o. b.i.d. and then to 0.011 mg/kg p.o. b.i.d.) during the course of treatment based on monitoring of serum T4 and fT4ED concentrations. After euthanasia for severe refractory lameness, postmortem examination revealed bilateral thyroid lobe enlargement and a fluid-filled cyst within the right lobe. Histologically, colloid goiter was present in both lobes, and a follicular cystadenoma had replaced one third of the cranial pole of the right lobe. The goiter and cystadenoma likely contributed to the hypothyroid condition in this bear, and fT4ED was a more sensitive indicator of hypothyroidism than was T4. The recommended canine dosage of levothyroxine may be too high for the treatment of hypothyroidism in American black bears; 0.011 mg/kg p.o. b.i.d. may be a more appropriate dosage.
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Vol. 35 • No. 1