Hyperthyroid Cats


Over active thyroid or hyperthyroidism is a common disease in older cats. It causes a variety of different signs and can cause major problems to the heart and kidneys.

As our cats get older they often gets slightly quieter and sleep more and eat less; so often people are pleased to see their cat eating well and being active. Unfortunately this is not always a good thing, as the first signs of hyperthyroidism are eating a lot of food and losing weight (another disease that does this is diabetes).

When the cats develop hyperthyroidism it is due to the thyroid gland becoming over active, occasionally it can be due to cancer in the thyroid gland. The thyroid then produces a lot of thyroxine hormone; this has an effect on the metabolism and speeds everything up. This means the heart beats faster and works harder, sometimes the blood pressure is raised also, which can lead to blindness, kidney damage, heart disease etc. Also because the hormone increases the activity, more food is needed to keep the calorie intake up and this food is not always absorbed well either. Other signs of hyperthyroidism include diarrhea, vomiting, bad temper, vocalisation and seizures; sometimes they have reduced appetites as they feel generally unwell.

Overall having an over active thyroid can make your cat very poorly and shorten their life considerably., so if you suspect that your cat is suffering from hyperthyroid we can perform a straight forward blood test to check. We usually also for check other problems that may be masked by the hyperthyroid.

Once we have diagnosed an overactive thyroid we can decide on which is the best treatment for each individual cat. There are several ways of treating hyperthyroidism in cats; we often start with tablet, which because the appetite is often increased they are more likely to take in food. This can be used as a short course to stabiles the cat before other treatment or can be used long term alternatively a special diet containing very low iodine will be effective but the cat must have no other food, tidbits or wildlife to supplement its’ diet. Other treatments include removing the thyroid glands; this can be very effective especially on the slightly younger cat but there are risks from the anaesthetic and also possible damage or bruising to the parathyroid glands which are very close. If the parathyroid gland is damaged it can mean long term medication for this instead of the thyroid. Another course of action is radioactive iodine treatment; this can be very effective but does mean going to a specialist centre for radioactive therapy and staying for up to 3 weeks for the treatment.

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