Understanding Hyperthyroidism In Your Cat

You've noticed that your cat is frequently at their water dish and food bowl. When they aren't eating or drinking, they seem anxious as they wander around the house. Your cat may have hyperthyroidism, a common disease in felines. A visit to your veterinarian will confirm this and medications are available to control it. Here is what to expect and how to help your feline companion cope with their illness.

The Causes of Hyperthyroidism

This is a hormonal disease that most often shows up in older cats. The thyroid gland produces a hormone called thyroxine, which regulates your cat's metabolism. With this disease, the hormone is produced at an elevated level, stimulating the cat's body and internal organs to work harder. Two situations can trigger the thyroid gland to put out more thyroxine:

  • genetic triggers
  • thyroid tumors

This disease can be treated, but only when the cause is a tumor can it be cured.

The Symptoms of Hyperthyroidism in Your Cat

Because your cat's metabolism is much higher than normal, the symptoms you see are the result of their body working at a much faster pace:

  • increased appetite
  • increased drinking and urination
  • weight loss
  • restlessness
  • poor coat condition
  • increased heart rate
  • fast breathing
  • diarrhea

Your cat will seem to be always on the go and moving. They may find it hard to sit still for long. Naps are short and frequently interrupted by the need to get a drink or use the litter box.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Your veterinarian will do a blood test to check the levels of thyroxine. Very high levels indicate a thyroid problem. They can feel the thyroid gland in the cat's neck, and if the problem is a tumor, they can sometimes feel the tumor. An x-ray will confirm the presence of a thyroid tumor.

Medication treatment - Methimazole is often used to treat this disease. It comes in a pill form or it can be compounded into a cream that is placed in the ear of the cat and absorbed through the tissues. This drug lowers the thyroxine levels so your cat will have a more normal metabolism. Your cat will need to be on this drug for the rest of their life and they will need to have regular blood tests to adjust the dose of the drug so it continues to be effective.

Radiation treatment - This is used only when a tumor is present. An injection of radioactive iodine is given to your cat. This kills the cancer cells responsible for the elevated thyroid activity. Once the tumor is gone, the thyroid returns the cat's body to its normal level of metabolism.

The radiation treatment can run thousands of dollars, which is why the medication treatment is still often used.

Helping Your Cat With This Disease

Until your cat becomes stable on the medication, there are ways you can help them with the problems caused by increased metabolism. As the cat ages, they often require increased doses of the drug and the symptoms can come back until the dose is adjusted.

  • Have extra water and food dishes located in the house
  • Have additional litter boxes available where your cat can get to them quickly
  • Give your cat a quiet place in the house where they can rest and not be bothered by the activity in the house
  • Help your cat with their grooming, paying special attention to mats in their fur

If you observe an increase in any of the symptoms, take your cat to your vet for a blood test and adjustment of the medication. When hyperthyroidism is treated properly, your cat will have years of comfortable life left. Contact a company like West Lake Animal Hospital for more information about feline hyperthyroidism.