ThyroidHormonesandEquineMetabolicSyndromeDr. Christine King In the main article on equine metabolic syndrome (aka insulin resistance), I mentioned in passing that sometimes thyroid hormone supplementation is used to assist in weight reduction with these overweight, laminitis-prone horses. In this article I thought I’d discuss that in a bit more detail. The thyroid gland First, a brief description of the thyroid gland, the hormones it produces, and the regulation of its function. The thyroid gland consists of a pair of lobes (left and right), each about the size of a small hen’s egg, that are located just behind the larynx in the horse’s throatlatch area. The thyroid gland produces two principal hormones: thyroxine (T4) and tri-iodothyronine (T3). These hormones have wide-ranging effects on the body, but their most fundamental role in the adult body is to stimulate metabolism. The secretion of these hormones by the thyroid gland is regulated by the pituitary gland (a small gland at the base of the brain). Among several other regulatory hormones, the pituitary gland secretes a hormone called thyrotropin or thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH). As its name indicates, TSH stimulates the thyroid gland to secrete T4 and T3. But that’s not all; secretion of TSH by the pituitary gland is regulated by the hypothalamus (a discrete area of the brain, located just above the pituitary gland). The hypothalamus secretes thyrotropin releasing hormone (TRH) which directs the pituitary gland to secrete TSH. Blood levels of T4 and T3 are kept within a fairly narrow range through a refined feedback loop involving all three of these tissues (thyroid gland, pituitary gland, and hypothalamus). A drop in T4/T3 stimulates TRH production, which stimulates TSH production, which then stimulates the thyroid gland to secrete more T4 and T3. Elevations in T4/T3 have the opposite effect: they suppress the release of TRH and TSH, and thus of T4 and T3.
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