Cat with yellow eyes on the wallDespite being one of the most common endocrine conditions among cats, very few owners are aware of feline hyperthyroidism. This may be due, in part, to the erroneous assumption that old cats are just skinny. However, for felines over the age of 10, hyperthyroidism and diabetes can significantly impact quality of life and life expectancy.

An Overview of Feline Hyperthyroidism

When the thyroid glands – those two small lobes on each side of the trachea – produce an excess of hormones, hyperthyroidism ensues. This occurs when abnormal cells form masses or adenomas (benign lumps) within the lobe. Although there’s no clear reason why these adenomas form, there is some speculation around certain food ingredients and environmental toxins.

The most common symptoms of feline hyperthyroidism include:

  • Weight loss
  • Increased water and food consumption
  • Frequent urination
  • Restlessness
  • Dull or unkempt coat
  • Behavioral changes
  • Vomiting (sometimes coupled with diarrhea)

Diagnosing Feline Hyperthyroidism

A diagnosis can be made through blood chemistry analysis, which will indicate whether there’s an abnormal increase of thyroid hormones in the blood. In addition, the thyroid glands are palpated during a physical exam to check for enlargement. If results are inconclusive, a more complex procedure called a nuclear medicine scan may be ordered.

Because excess thyroid hormones can strain the liver, kidneys, and heart, diagnostic tests are also administered to evaluate the health of these organs. Heart disease is often a secondary condition of hyperthyroidism and must be treated separately.

The good news is that heart disease and other co-occurring disorders can often be reversed when diagnosed and treated early on.

Treating Hyperthyroidism

Once a diagnosis is made, one of our veterinarians will discuss the best treatment options for your feline companion. Factors such as age and the presence of other diseases help inform the treatment plan.

In most cases, treatment options include anti-thyroid medications, surgical removal of the thyroid glands, and/or the use of radioactive iodine. Since kidney disease is equally prevalent in seniors, creating the right plan also means analyzing kidney function.

Our four-legged companions are leading longer lives than ever, and it’s encouraging to know that many age-related diseases can now be treated or managed.

For optimal health and wellbeing of your senior cat, we recommend biannual wellness exams. To learn more about feline hyperthyroidism or to schedule an appointment, please contact The Pet Experts at Elmhurst Animal Care Center.

P.S. We’re also proud to be a cat friendly practice!