hyperthyroidism in cats

Hyperthyroidism has become such a big problem in our beloved furry felines. I find it very sad. It is a common hormone disorder affecting our pet’s energy, weight, hunger level and more.

This disorder creates these and a number of other symptoms that are caused by the excess creation of thyroid hormone levels, which are produced via the thyroid. I did research on this disease and found out that there could be several causes. One being the prevalent use of PBDE’s as a flame retardant in many products. Another being commercial dry and canned cat food. Whatever it is caused from, that is another subject altogether, but let’s find out about it and what to do about it if your cat is showing signs and symptoms.

Cats with overactive Thyroid – What is it about?

The thyroid gland consists of a small gland with two lobes, one on each side of the trachea (windpipe) in the neck. This gland creates a hormone known as thyroxine (T4).

This hormone regulates the body’s metabolic level and affects all systems in the body. The production of T4 is controlled by other hormones called the TSH or thyroid-stimulating hormones. TSH is produced by the pituitary gland, which is found at the base of the brain.

Hyperthyroid Feline – What causes it?

If the thyroid makes extra amounts of the hormone T4, the condition is called hyperthyroidism.The most familiar cause of the increase of T4 is a non-cancerous increase in the number of cells in the thyroid gland. Groups of the irregular cells form tiny nodules on the thyroid and are labeled adenomas.Multiple adenomas can form in a lobe, and in roughly 65% of the circumstances, both lobes are affected. Only 2% of hyperthyroid cells in cats are malignant or cancerous.The incidence of hyperthyroidism in cats has increased remarkably in the last 25 years. The reason for this is unknown, but is probably due to multiple factors. The ingredients of the canned and dry foods being fed, immune system factors, and environmental influences such as the PBDE’s that are in the house in many products, carpets etc., cats ingest the substance in both foods and by licking their fur. All this and more may be involved in the cause. No one is entirely sure.

The average age for developing the disorder is under 13 years of age. Cats that develop this disorder before eight years of age represent only five percent of the group. There is not a sex or breed preference to the disorder.

Hyperthyroid in Cats Symptoms

The signs & symptoms of hyperthyroidism are extensive & inconsistent.The following are the most common symptoms of feline hyperthyroidism:

  • Weight loss for no apparent reason
  • Increased appetite and water drinking
  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Increased urination
  • Behavioral changes
  • Increased vocalization
  • Nervousness
  • Hair loss
  • Body tremors
  • Panting or heavy breathing

Hyperthyroidism in Cats Prognosis

Several of the symptoms of hyperthyroidism can also be attributed to other diseases such as kidney failure, kidney disease, diabetes, heart disease, mellitus, or liver disease.

Because of this, further tests are performed to determine if other disorders are present.

Treatment can then be planned effectively depending on the test results.

Cats with hyperthyroidism usually have an increase of red blood cells, liver enzymes, BUN, and creatinine. Other tests that can be used to confirm a hyperthyroidism diagnosis include a T3 suppression blood test, T4 level blood test, thyroid uptake scan, ultrasound, and thyrotropin stimulation blood test.

In normal cats, the thyroid is not easily felt. However, in cats with hyperthyroidism, the thyroid gland is enlarged and can be felt.

In some cases, the thyroid gland is so large that it drops into the chest cavity and can’t be manipulated.

Ectopic thyroid is a condition in which the thyroid gland tissue has moved away from the thyroid and is found in areas around the chest and neck.

Hyperthyroidism Cats Untreated – What to expect?

The most common side effects of feline hyperthyroidism are high blood pressure, heart murmurs, and rapid heart rates. If left untreated, cats usually develop hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a heart condition that causes the thickening of heart muscles. This condition can be fatal.There are natural treatments, prescription diet and many alternative remedies to save your purring puss from an early grave. ;-(

Allopathic Treatment Options

There are presently three treatments used by conventional veterinary medicine for hyperthyroidism in cats:

1. Medication

Methimazole is a readily available, inexpensive short-term pill medication for the treatment of hyperthyroidism in cats. This treatment is the most common because it requires no surgery or hospitalization. Most of the time, cats are on this medication their entire life, and regular blood tests are necessary. Methimazole (FDA approved) is sometimes given before radiation therapy to help stabilize a cat. This medication is not a cure, and the thyroid gland cells will continue to grow. If the cat will not take this medication in pill form, there is a gel available that is placed in the ear for absorption.

2. Surgery

This can be a cure for feline hyperthyroidism as long as all the abnormal tissue can be removed. There is a short hospitalization stay, and the surgery will require anesthesia. If all the abnormal tissue is removed, there is no longer a need for daily medication. The surgery can cause damage to the parathyroid gland and nerves in the area. The parathyroid gland is located on the backside of the thyroid gland, and its purpose is to maintain the body’s calcium level. Surgery is impossible if the thyroid gland has dropped into the chest cavity, because it is no longer accessible.

Radioactive iodine therapy

This treatment alternative requires no sedation or surgery. Abnormal thyroid gland tissue can be treated, and there is no damage to healthy organs or tissue. Usually, normal thyroid levels and functions return within 30 days of the treatment. This treatment can be performed on thyroid glands that have dropped into the chest cavity or if the cells are cancerous.

Hospitalization for a prolonged period is required, and treatment sometimes has to be repeated. Radioactive iodine treatment is the most expensive of the treatments available for feline hypothyroidism.Of the three treatments, radioactive iodine treatment is the favoured conventional treatment for felines with both thyroid gland lobes affected and felines with thyroid matter located in hard-to-reach areas. The results of radioactive therapy are positive, and the animal is exposed to minimal risk.

Natural Treatment for Hyperthyroidism in Cats

  1. Change of Diet, preferable raw
  2. Herbs and Homeopathy – all-natural products such as Resthyro
  3. Cat vitamins including CoQ-10 and l-Carnitine
  4. Acupuncture and massage therapy for pets

Clinical Trial Treatment

A fourth treatment is in the investigation phase, and it is called chemical ablation. This treatment consists of an ultrasound scan being used to locate the thyroid gland, which is injected with medicated chemicals or exposed to radio-frequency heat to destroy the abnormal cells. This treatment requires anesthesia but only takes 15 minutes or less to complete. These treatments have their disadvantages and advantages depending on the cat’s age and the stage of its disease. It is important to talk to one’s veterinarian about all the options available for the cat.

Feline hyperthyroidism can be treated successfully, and most cats live normal, healthy lives. It is crucial, however, to seek the help of a medical professional right away if any of the symptoms described in this article appear in one’s pet cat. The key to success is early detection.

ask a veterinarian

In conclusion – It is Treatable!

If your cat has it, there are many decisions you must make about how to treat this disease, but remember most procedures are dangerous for your much loved kitty.

There are surgical options, radiation treatments and chemotherapy, however, the side effects of any one of these treatments can be devastating. So please consider the natural alternatives as well.


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