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Hyperthyroidism in cats

Posted on June 24, 2013 at 9:04 PM Comments comments (763)
This is our cat "Skipper".  He will be 13 years old in a couple of weeks.

He just had his annual check-up and is doing great.  However, he was diagnosed with Hyperthyroidism.  It is better for a cat to be diagnosed with this problem versus Hypothyroidism (which packs on the pounds).

We will have to give him two pills a day (which will be a lot of fun), for the rest of his life and also he has to go on a Renal Diet to help his kidney function as well.  This diet consists of low protein and high fat.  Our vet. also told us he can have as much soft food as he wants, as long as it fits this Renal Diet.

So, all is well in the Wise household and we should see a bit of weight gain on our loving Skipper.

Below is some information about Hyperthyroidism that is very interesting:

Hyperthyroidism is the overproduction of thyroid hormone by the thyroid glands. Hyperthyroidism occurs most commonly in older cats and is rare in dogs. The average age of cats with hyperthyroidism is 13 years of age; only about 5 % of hyperthyroid cats are younger than 10 years of age. There are 2 thyroid glands located in the neck. One or  both of the glands can enlarge and overproduce thyroid hormone.  Involvement of  both glands is more common than involvement of one gland. Thyroid hormone affects the function of most organs in the body, so the signs of hyperthyroidism are quite variable. 

Signs of hyperthyroidism can include:     
  • weight loss
  • increased appetite
  • increased activity and restlessness
  • aggressive or "cranky" behavior
  • a poor hair coat
  • a fast heart rate
  • increased water drinking 
  • increased urination
  • periodic vomiting
  • increased amount of stool or diarrhea
  • occasionally difficulty breathing 
  • occasionally weakness
  • occasionally depression

A diagnosis of hyperthyroidism is made when the level of thyroid hormone is increased in the blood.  Most hyperthyroid cats have very high levels of hormone but some cats will have signs of hyperthyroidism with normal or only slightly increased levels of thyroid hormone.  Thyroid hormone levels can vary over time so it may be necessary to check blood levels several times or perform a different test called a T3 suppression test. The enlarged thyroid gland(s) can often be felt in the neck. If the diagnosis is not obvious by blood tests, a nuclear medicine scan of the thyroid glands can be performed at certain specialty veterinary practices. The cat is given a small dose of a radioactive compound that travels by the blood to the thyroid glands. Hyperactive thyroid glands accumulate more of the compound than normal glands. After this test the cat must be hospitalized for a few days while it clears the radioactive compound from its body. 

A blood panel and urinalysis are also performed to screen for abnormalities in other organs such as liver and kidney that may be present due to the advanced age of the animal. 
High levels of  thyroid hormone may cause heart disease. The heart may appear enlarged on x-ray or ultrasound and may show abnormal electrical activity on an ECG (electrocardiogram).  Heart disease may cause fluid to build up in or around the lungs. Cats with serious heart disease and hyperthyroidism need to be treated for both diseases. The heart disease will reverse in many cats after successful treatment of hyperthyroidism.  There are three types of  treatment for hyperthyroidism: 

  • life long oral anti-thyroid  medications
  • surgical removal of affected thyroid glands
  • treatment with radioactive iodine

All three treatments will reduce thyroid hormone levels and the signs of hyperthyroidism. Discuss the 3 options with your veterinarian. If your pet has other diseases, one treatment may be better for your cat than another.