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My Cat was Diagnosed with Hyperthyroidism What do I do Now?

By Species, By Topic, Care & Wellness, Cats, Diagnosis, Medications

A diagnosis of hyperthyroidism is fairly common in cats older than 9 years of age. It can occur earlier in life but seems to occur more frequently as cats age. In fact, it is one of the most common endocrine diseases diagnosed in cats. The most common symptoms from a hyperthyroid cat are vomiting, diarrhea, or significant weight loss along with an increased heart rate. The same symptoms could also be a sign of other medical problems, which is why it is important for your cat to have complete physical exams, which include full screening blood tests.

Diagnosing hyperthyroidism requires a blood test that measures the values of the T-4 hormone, which is produced by the thyroid. Several treatment options are available if T-4 hormones are high and indicate hyperthyroidism. The most common treatment is an oral drug called Methimazole, which slows down the production of T-4 hormones and helps alleviate the symptoms of hyperthyroidism. A kitty taking Methimazole, will probably need the medication for the remainder of its lifetime. Remember, follow-up blood work is essential when a cat is taking any medication long term!

Some cats are terrible at taking pills, and owners might have trouble giving medication on the proper schedule, because they have trouble giving pills.  Another option is having the vet pharmacy compound the Methimazole medication into a chewable flavored treat. Yummy!

Some cats will get upset stomachs or suffer from other side effects, especially with long-term use of Methimazole. For those cats that cannot tolerate Methimazole, radioactive iodine (known as I-131) might be an optional treatment. Just like in humans, radioactive iodine is concentrated in the thyroid gland. Since the radiation is emitted over a very small distance, the overactive thyroid tissue is destroyed and with only minimal complications to other body parts. Cats tolerate radioactive iodine therapy well, and typically, thyroid hormone levels will return to normal ranges within a few weeks. In some cases, the thyroid hormone levels drop below normal, but the condition caused by low levels is easier to manage and is not as life-threatening as the high levels that cause hyperthyroidism.

Another treatment option that has been effective for some cats, is an iodine restrictive diet. Just like with the drug Methimazole, an iodine restrictive diet must be maintained for the remainder of the cat’s life.

If your cat is exhibiting signs of hyperthyroidism, call CEDARCREST Animal Clinic at 540-943-7577 and schedule a T-4 hormone blood test.

CEDARCREST Animal Clinic provides medical and surgical care for every stage of your pet's life including preventive wellness care exams and vaccines, spays/neuters, and a variety of specialized care for your dog, cat, avian, or exotic. We are home to the only veterinarian practitioner in Virginia to be double Boarded in Avian and Canine/Feline care and provide care for birds, small mammals, and reptiles of all sorts! Plus, we are home to Virginia's most exclusive dog boarding resort that includes heated floors, an expansive play area, and even webcams so you can watch your pet while you're away. We're located in Fishersville, Virginia, and serve Augusta County and surrounding areas including Waynesboro, Staunton, Harrisonburg, and Charlottesville. 

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