How To Treat Hyperthyroidism In Cats

Hyperthyroidism is a prevalent health problem among middle-aged and senior cats in Stanwood. But what does hyperthyroidism in cats mean? What are the signs, and how can it be treated? Let our veterinarians provide the answers.

Thyroid Hormones & Your Cat's Health

Hyperthyroidism in cats occurs when the thyroid glands become overactive, causing an excess production of thyroid hormones. This is a common disorder that leads to various unhealthy symptoms for your cat. 

Thyroid hormones play a crucial role in regulating body processes and controlling the metabolic rate. When there is an excessive production of these hormones, it can have dramatic effects and make cats severely ill. 

Cats with hyperthyroidism tend to burn energy at a faster rate, leading to weight loss despite increased food consumption and a greater appetite. Let's explore more symptoms in the following discussion.

What are the symptoms of hyperthyroidism in cats?

Hyperthyroidism is commonly observed in older cats, typically between 10 and 13 years old. The occurrence of hyperthyroidism seems to be similar in male and female cats, with no notable difference.

Cat parents should be vigilant for the following key indications of hyperthyroidism: 

  • Increase in thirst
  • Increased irritability or restlessness
  • Increase in heart rate
  • Poor grooming habits
  • Typically a healthy or increased appetite

Some cats may experience mild to moderate diarrhea and/or vomiting, while others may seek cooler spots to relax and become more sensitive to heat. In more serious cases, cats may pant when stressed, which is not typical behavior for them.

While most cats maintain a good appetite and restlessness, some may feel weaker, lethargic, or lose interest in food. It's crucial to observe significant changes in your cat's behavior and seek veterinary attention sooner rather than later.

These symptoms usually start subtly and progressively worsen with the underlying disease. Other illnesses can also complicate and hide these symptoms, emphasizing the importance of early veterinary evaluation.

What causes hyperthyroidism in cats?

For many cats, harmless changes in their bodies can lead to a condition where their thyroid glands, specifically both of them, become enlarged. This change, known as nodular hyperplasia, resembles a non-cancerous tumor. It is similar to hyperthyroidism in humans, which is called toxic nodular goiter in medical terms. In rare cases, a cancerous tumor called thyroid adenocarcinoma is the root cause of this disease.

What are the long-term complications of hyperthyroidism?

Hyperthyroidism, if untreated, can affect the heart by changing its muscular wall and increasing heart rate, leading to heart failure. 

Cats with hyperthyroidism often experience high blood pressure (hypertension). This condition can damage various organs, including the brain, kidneys, heart, and eyes. If your cat is diagnosed with both hypertension and hyperthyroidism, medication will be necessary to control blood pressure. 

In older cats, hyperthyroidism and kidney disease frequently occur together. It is important to monitor and manage both conditions since treating hyperthyroidism closely may sometimes have a negative impact on kidney function.

How is hyperthyroidism diagnosed?

Diagnosing hyperthyroidism in senior cats can be difficult. Your vet will examine your cat's neck to check for an enlarged thyroid gland. Since other common diseases in senior cats have similar symptoms, a series of tests may be needed to diagnose hyperthyroidism. 

Tests like complete blood count, urinalysis, and chemistry panel can help rule out kidney failure and diabetes. 

In some cases, a simple blood test showing high T4 levels can confirm the diagnosis. However, this may not be accurate for all cats due to other illnesses or mild cases of hyperthyroidism, which can cause fluctuating T4 levels or elevated T4 levels influenced by another illness. 

If possible, your vet may also check your cat's blood pressure and conduct additional tests like an electrocardiogram, chest x-ray, or ultrasound.

How will my vet treat my cat's hyperthyroidism?

There are a few different approaches to treating this condition in cats. Your vet will recommend the best treatment for your kitty based on your pet's specific circumstances and the advantages and disadvantages of each option. Your cat's treatment for hyperthyroidism may include:

  • Radioactive iodine therapy (likely the safest and most effective treatment option)
  • Antithyroid medication, administered orally, to control the disease for either the short-term or long-term
  • Surgery to remove the thyroid gland
  • Dietary therapy

What is the prognosis for cats with hyperthyroidism?

Your kitty's prognosis for hyperthyroidism will generally be good with appropriate therapy, administered early. In some cases, complications with other organs can worsen the prognosis.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Is your cat exhibiting signs of hyperthyroidism? Contact us today to book an examination for your feline friend.