Hyperthyroidism in Cats: Hyperthyroidism in cats occurs when the thyroid gland produces too much of the hormone thyroxine. This speeds up your cat’s metabolism and can cause a variety of symptoms.
Some of the signs you may notice in your hyperthyroid cat include:
- Increased appetite. Your cat always seems hungry despite eating more.
- Weight loss. Even with an increased appetite, your cat is losing weight.
- Increased thirst. Your cat is drinking more water than usual.
- Vomiting or diarrhea. An upset stomach can be a symptom of the hormonal imbalance.
- Hyperactivity. Your usually calm cat seems restless, irritable or anxious.
- Poor coat condition. Your cat’s fur may appear dull, dry or thinning.
- Other symptoms. Fast heart rate, high blood pressure, difficulty breathing, weakness or heat intolerance can also occur.
The good news is hyperthyroidism in cats can typically be managed well with treatment. The most common options are medication, surgery, or radioactive iodine therapy. Your vet can determine the best approach based on your cat’s health, age, and severity of symptoms. With proper treatment and follow-up care, hyperthyroid cats can go on to live happily for many years.
The key is catching this condition early. Be sure to take your cat for regular checkups and let your vet know right away if you notice any symptoms. Early detection and treatment of hyperthyroidism in cats leads to the best outcome, so your cat can feel like themselves again.
Common Signs And Symptoms of Hyperthyroidism in Cats
Common signs of hyperthyroidism in cats include:
- Increased appetite. Hyperthyroid cats often become ravenous, begging for food at all hours of the day and night. This is because the increased thyroid hormone levels speed up their metabolism, burning more calories.
- Weight loss. Despite the increased appetite, hyperthyroid cats tend to lose weight. The calories they take in aren’t enough to match the calories they burn.
- Vomiting and diarrhea. Some hyperthyroid cats experience digestive upset, vomiting, and diarrhea. The excess thyroid hormone can irritate the gastrointestinal tract.
- Increased thirst. Hyperthyroidism also causes increased thirst, as the cat’s body tries to stay hydrated with the increased metabolism and activity. You may notice your cat drinking more water than usual.
- Hyperactivity or restlessness. The excess thyroid hormone causes an increase in energy and activity level. Hyperthyroid cats often seem restless or hyperactive, pacing, meowing, or wanting constant attention.
- Poor coat quality. With hyperthyroidism, a cat’s coat may become dull, dry, or matted. The body’s resources are diverted away from less critical functions like coat maintenance.
- Heat intolerance. Hyperthyroid cats often feel excessively warm due to their revved-up metabolism. You may notice they prefer cooler areas of the home.
- High heart rate. The increased thyroid hormone also causes a higher heart rate, which you may be able to detect when petting or holding your cat. An elevated heart rate is often one of the first signs noticed by owners.
If your cat is exhibiting several of these symptoms, especially increased appetite, weight loss, and hyperactivity, it’s a good idea to have your vet check for hyperthyroidism. The sooner it’s diagnosed and treated, the better the outcome for your cat’s health and quality of life.
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Treatment Options for Feline Hyperthyroidism
If your cat has been diagnosed with hyperthyroidism, the good news is there are several treatment options available to manage the condition and improve their quality of life. The most common treatments for feline hyperthyroidism include:
- Medication: Anti-thyroid medication, known as methimazole, can be administered in pill or gel form. This medication helps slow the production of thyroid hormones to normal levels. Medication requires frequent blood testing to monitor thyroid levels and adjust dosages, but can be an affordable option, at least initially.
- Radioactive Iodine Therapy: Radioiodine treatment involves injecting a radioactive form of iodine that targets the overactive thyroid cells. This helps destroy the cells producing excess hormones. While very effective, it does require leaving your cat at the vet for several days, and can be more expensive. However, it often cures the disease and may negate the need for lifelong medication.
- Surgery: Surgical removal of part of the thyroid gland can also be curative for hyperthyroidism. However, as with any surgery, there are risks like infection or complications from anesthesia. Surgery typically requires a hospital stay of a few days and recovery time at home. Costs can also vary significantly depending on the vet and procedure.
- Diet change: For some cats, switching to a high-quality diet specifically for hyperthyroidism or other medical conditions may help. Prescription diet food has limited iodine, the mineral used by the thyroid to produce hormones. This diet change alone likely won’t cure the disease but may help reduce symptoms when used with medication or other treatments.
The treatment route you choose will depend on several factors, including your cat’s health status, cost, your vet’s recommendations, and your own preferences. With appropriate treatment and monitoring, most cats with hyperthyroidism can maintain a good quality of life and normal activity levels well into their senior years. Discussing options with your vet can help determine the best plan of action for your feline friend’s unique condition and needs.