Old Long-Haired Grey Cat with Yellow Eyes on RailingIf you have a senior pet, your list of worries is probably longer than it was a few years back. Unfortunately, it is true that as a pet ages his or her likelihood of experiencing many conditions increases. Be it arthritis, cancer, or even dementia, having an older pet increases the odds that your beloved family member may be affected by some disease process.

We start to consider our cat patients to be seniors around the age of seven. While trouble can find felines of any age, there are a few conditions that we see very commonly in our senior cat population. One of the more common problems that affect older cats are those involving the thyroid gland.

Hyperthyroidism in cats, while a very common issue, is also one that is often successfully managed and one all pet owners should be know about. Read on to get yourself up to speed.

Understanding Hyperthyroidism in Cats

The thyroid gland is a very important part of the endocrine system of the body. Endocrine organs such as the thyroid, adrenal, and pituitary glands secrete the various hormones that must stay in balance in order for the body to function properly.

The thyroid gland produces a hormone that is primarily responsible for regulating the body’s metabolism. Most times this gland produces the right amount of hormone due to a tightly-regulated system within the body. In some instances, however, too much may be release (hyperthyroidism). In other cases, too little may be produced (hypothyroidism).

In cats, we most often see hyperthyroidism. This often results from a tumor within the thyroid gland. While the tumor itself is usually harmless, it is functional, producing far more thyroid than the body requires. This activity results in the symptoms of hyperthyroidism in cats:

  • Weight loss
  • Ravenous appetite
  • Digestive disturbances (vomiting and/or diarrhea)
  • Heart problems including high blood pressure
  • If untreated, loss of vision
  • Most often we see hyperthyroidism in our older cat population. While the symptoms may appear similarly to many other diseases, hyperthyroidism in cats is usually relatively easily diagnosed with blood testing.

    Waging the War

    If your cat has been diagnosed with hyperthyroidism, never fear, The Pet Experts at Naperville Animal Hospital are more than equipped to help. Hyperthyroidism in cats is a common diagnosis, and we are prepared to help you get your sweet cat back to normal as quickly as possible.

    There are several viable options for treating cats with this condition. They include:

    Medical treatment – Most cats with an overactive thyroid can be successfully managed on daily medications. This is not a cure, but rather a treatment, and medications must be administered for the remainder of the pet’s life. Thyroid medication comes readily available in a pill form or can even be compounded into a liquid or transdermal gel for easier administration. Some pet owners choose to medicate their pet by using a prescription diet designed to control thyroid disease in cats when fed exclusively.

    I-131 treatment – Technology also exists to “cure” hyperthyroidism in cats utilizing a radioactive iodine isotope called I-131. This treatment offers a more permanent solution to cat owners, effectively curing most of the patients who undergo it.

    Surgical management – The thyroid gland removed via surgery, eliminating the secretion of thyroid hormone. This type of treatment is not without complications, however, and has fallen out of favor over the years.

    Once a cat is identified as hyperthyroidic, treatment is often very successful. Cats with this condition must be monitored closely for proper thyroid balance as well as signs of associated issues such as high blood pressure, kidney disease, and problems with the retina of the eye.

    Hyperthyroidism in cats might sound scary, but it is a very manageable condition if we can identify it early. This is why routine wellness exams and screening blood tests are so important. Your role as a pet owner is also vital. You know your cat better than anyone. Never hesitate to let us know if you have questions or concerns about your pet, no matter how small they seemingly are.