Talking To Your Vet About Feline Hyperthyroidism
Hyperthyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland produces too much of its hormone. It is fairly rare in dogs but occurs much more in senior cats. Most affected cats are around 13 years old, and it’s uncommon in cats less than 10 years old. There are two glands in the neck, and most often, both become affected but occasionally just one will begin producing too much hormone. This makes the signs of hyperthyroidism variable.
What to Look For
Signs of hyperthyroidism are obvious, and a diagnosis is usually pretty easy for veterinarians to make. Many of the signs include:
- Weight loss
- Increased appetite
- Increased activity
- Dull coat
- Hair loss
- Increased heart rate
- Increased water intake
- Increased urination
- Occasional vomiting for no reason
- Occasional diarrhea for no reason
- Occasional labored breathing for no reason
- Occasional weakness and depression for no reason
- Diagnosing Hyperthyroidism
A diagnosis is usually made when the signs are present and the blood work comes back positive for increased thyroid hormone. Sometimes, the blood work is extremely elevated, and sometimes, it is close to normal with the cat showing many of the symptoms. Because hormone levels fluctuate, blood work is done several times before a diagnosis is made. Sometimes, the enlarged gland can be felt upon palpation, and the blood work is conclusive. When it’s not, a nuclear medicine scan is ordered to confirm a diagnosis.
What Happens Next?
If your cat is diagnosed with hyperthyroidism, a blood panel will be done along with a urinalysis to check for malfunctioning organs. Many times there are other things wrong that you didn’t even know about, and they are just due to the advanced age of the cat. Too much thyroid hormone present can cause heart disease, which may subside once the hyperthyroidism is treated.
Treatments for Hyperthyroidism
There are three main types of treatment for hyperthyroidism:
- Life-long oral medications
- Surgical removal of the thyroid glands
- Radioactive iodine treatment
All of these treatments have been used successfully, but depending on the overall health of your cat, one may be better suited for him than another.