The Essential Guide to Hyperthyroidism

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Thanks to advances in veterinary medicine, pets are living longer.

Whilst this is fantastic as pets are living happier, healthier lives, it does mean that they’re more inclined to develop certain conditions.

This includes hyperthyroidism, which is a disease very common in older cats. It can sometimes seem like your cat is just ‘getting on a bit’ but, like arthritis, it’s actually a condition that should be treated.

What is hyperthyroidism?

The thyroid gland is situated in the neck and is responsible for producing thyroid hormones. These are involved in a number of bodily processes, including controlling the metabolic rate.

‘Hyper’ means that there is an excess of something – in the case of hyperthyroidism, it means that too many thyroid hormones are being produced. This increases the metabolic rate, so cats burn up energy too rapidly.

It’s a horrible disease that can make cats incredibly ill. Thankfully, it can now be successfully treated.

What are the symptoms of hyperthyroidism?

Symptoms may vary in severity but generally you should look out for:

  • Increased thirst
  • Increased appetite but losing weight
  • Seeming restless, irritable or hyper
  • Increased heart rate (you may be able to feel this)
  • Coat looks and feels unkempt

In older cats who may have slowed down a bit in their later years, the condition may present signs of your cat suddenly feeling energetic. However, this may soon be accompanied by other symptoms to hint that it’s not a healthy change.

Did you know? Whilst cats are more likely to develop hyperthyroidism, dogs tend to get hypothyroidism too.

Treating hyperthyroidism

There are a variety of ways to treat hyperthyroidism. What your vet suggests will depend on your cat’s general health and how advanced the problem is.

The first step may be medication. Whether this is a suitable method for managing the condition in your cat will probably depend on how easy you find it to feed them tablets. If it’s too difficult to get your cat to take a pill (and keep it down!) then your vet may suggest surgery – this can be the best method for a long-term cure for your pet.

All anaesthetics carry a certain degree of risk and this is elevated with older pets. However, every precaution is taken to ensure that cats are safe during any procedure and complications are rare.

There is now a third option available too – radioactive iodine therapy.

This involves radioactive iodine being administered as an injection so it destroys abnormal thyroid tissue. This is normally a very effective and lasting treatment, although it is only available in limited locations due to the specialised nature of the treatment. It will require your pet to be hospitalised and isolated during treatment due to the radioactive elements present.

There is also a new diet available which is designed to manage the condition in cats. Again, this uses iodine (although not radioactive this time!) as this is very important in controlling the release of thyroid hormones. This may be an attractive option as it doesn’t involve a medical procedure, but you must make sure that your cat isn’t eating anything else!

Your vet will be able to provide more detail on all these options should your pet require treatment.
Because prompt diagnosis and treatment are so important in preventing long term health problems in your pets, we always advise regular health checks. Remember that cat years equate to seven of our years, so a lot can change for them over the course of a year!

We’re helping to investigate diseases like Hyperthyroidism through our participation in the Vet Compass project. This means we can learn about what conditions affect pets through the use of anonymous data collected from our patients, increasing our veterinary knowledge and advancing future veterinary services.

Could your cat have hyperthyroidism? If you’re concerned your pet may have health issues then please call your local Medivet practice by using our online practice finder tool.

Posted March 16, 2017 by Cara Zaleski in Pet Care Advice

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