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How Hyperthyroidism Can Change Your Cat’s Life

Cats, Diagnosis

The thyroid gland in cats, as well as in dogs and humans, produces a normal hormone that regulates metabolic functions in the body. Hyperthyroidism occurs when an excess of thyroid hormone is produced which, in turn, results in a high metabolic state in the animal. This high metabolic state causes changes in multiple body organs.

Cats become Hyperthyroid when one or both of the thyroid glands, located in the neck, become hyperactive. In about 10% of cases, this is due to a benign tumor on the gland. Other causes for the hyperactivity of the gland may be related to environmental, nutritional or other factors.

When the gland becomes hyperactive, the hypermetabolic state will gradually cause weight loss, muscle wasting, many times an increase in appetite and vomiting. Most cats are elderly when they first begin to show signs and the conditions observed slowly progress in severity.

The diagnosis is accomplished by measuring the degree of circulating T4 (Thyroid Hormone) in the blood. There are other conditions that can affect the T4 levels in cats, so your veterinarian may also need to evaluate other thyroid hormones and perform repeat measurement of the T4 values.

Since elevated Thyroid Hormone has an effect on multiple body organs, a concurrent blood analysis of kidney and liver values, analysis of a complete blood count, electrocardiogram and chest X-rays are important to rule out concurrent medical conditions.

Once a diagnosis had been established, there are several treatment options. One of the most common is the administration of methimazole given once or twice daily. Methimazole normally comes in a pill form, but can be compounded into other types of more cat-friendly means of administration. This therapy is for the life of the cat.

Another simple but more expensive treatment is to use radioactive iodine (I-131) on cats that have normal kidney function. This typically one-time treatment destroys the thyroid gland so no new thyroid hormone is produced.

Lastly, there is a prescription diet, which, again, is a lifelong treatment. The prescribed food will severely limit the cat’s iodine intake. The thyroid needs iodine to make thyroid hormone so limiting the iodine intake limits the hormone production.

The choice of treatment will depend on the cat, its dietary preferences or its cooperativeness for taking medication. Call CEDARCREST Animal Hospital at 540-943-7577 if think your cat may have hyperthyroidism.

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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