Feline Hyperthyroidism: Symptoms and Treatments

Published: Wednesday, October 10, 2012 at 03:07 PM.



Is your middle-aged cat experiencing increased thirst,appetite, and urination?  Is your furry friend losing weight or has a change in behavior?  If so, your family cat may have hyperthyroidism.

This common disease is caused by an overproduction of thyroid hormones, called T3 and T4, due to dysfunction of the thyroid glands in the cat’s neck.  There are two of these glands, on either side of the windpipe. Both glands are usually affected, but this is not always the case. The symptoms mentioned previously are not the only signs of hyperthyroidism; other symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, and a matted or greasy coat.  These signs start slowly and many owners may not initially realize that something is wrong, said Dr. Audrey Cook, associate professor at Texas A&M College of VeterinaryMedicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM).

“A drop in body weight is often the first clue that a cat is suffering from hyperthyroidism, which is one of the reasons why regular vetvisits are so important in older cats,” Cook said.

If a cat starts exhibiting the symptoms of hyperthyroidism, a trip to the veterinarian will confirm the diagnosis.  The veterinarian will perform a physical examination, which will include careful examination of the neck. An enlarged thyroid gland may be palpated, but a normal exam does not rule out the possibility of hyperthyroidism. To confirm the disease, the animal’s thyroid hormone level will be checked through blood work. 

Since thyroid hormones affect most organs in the body, it is important to test a cat for the disease if it is suspected.  If left untreated, secondary problems can arise such as the heart enlargement, with an elevated heart rate.  Another problem resulting from untreated hyperthyroidism is hypertension, or high blood pressure.  Both hypertension and heart disease caused by hyperthyroidism will resolve with proper treatment of the thyroid disease. 

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