The hormones in your cat's body are crucial to its function so if the thyroid isn't working properly it can cause your cat to feel unwell. Here, our Alpharetta vets talk about the impact of hyperthyroidism on your cat and how changing their diet may be able to help manage the symptoms.
Hyperthyroidism in Cats
Just like humans, cats have thyroid glands that are located in the neck that produce essential hormones. These hormones help to regulate many processes in the body and control your cat's metabolic rate. If the thyroid produces too much or too little of these hormones your cat will either show symptoms of hypothyroidism (low levels of hormone) or hyperthyroidism (too much hormone).
When a cat is experiencing hyperthyroidism, they are making too much of the hormone and their metabolism will speed up greatly. This means that your cat will tend to burn energy too quickly, resulting in weight loss even if you notice that your kitty is eating considerably more food than usual.
Symptoms of Hyperthyroidism in Cats
Hyperthyroidism can affect cats of all breeds and ages although it is most commonly diagnosed in older cats. These cats are generally around 12 or 13 years of age and can be either male or female.
Like most health conditions, the symptoms of hyperthyroidism in cats will worsen gradually over time. Other underlying health issues can also complicate or mask symptoms of hyperthyroidism, so it’s important to see your vet early if your cat shows any of the symptoms listed below. If your cat is experiencing hyperthyroidism they may be exhibiting one or many of the following symptoms:
- Increase in thirst
- Mild diarrhea and vomiting
- Increase in heart rate
- Poor grooming habits
- Hearty or increased appetite
- Low heat tolerance
If you begin to notice that your cat is panting then it might indicate that your cat is already experiencing an advanced stage of the condition. Although most cats suffering from hyperthyroidism have a good appetite and are restless, others may feel weak, lethargic or experience a lack of appetite.
Potential Causes of Hyperthyroidism in Cats
For most cats hyperthyroidism is caused by a non-cancerous tumor located somewhere on the thyroid gland. There have been rare cases noted, however, where the tumor has mutated into thyroid cancer.
Implications of Hyperthyroidism in Cats
One of the serious complications that can arise from untreated hyperthyroidism is a negative effect on the function of your cat's heart potentially leading to heart failure.
Along with heart issues, hyperthyroidism can also cause high blood pressure in cats. Though we see this less often, high blood pressure in cats is linked to other serious health concerns such as damage to the brain, kidneys, heart and eyes. If your kitty is diagnosed with hypertension in addition to hyperthyroidism, medication will be required to control blood pressure.
Hyperthyroidism and kidney disease often occur at the same time in older cats. When both these conditions are present, they need to be closely monitored and managed as managing hyperthyroidism can sometimes adversely affect kidney function.
Diagnosing Hyperthyroidism in Cats
Diagnosing hyperthyroidism in older cats can be somewhat tricky. Your vet will complete a physical exam and palpate your cat’s neck area to look for signs of an enlarged thyroid gland. At Loving Hands Animal Clinic & Pet Resort, our veterinary internal medicine team uses state-of-the-art diagnostic testing to help diagnose your pet's condition and provide advanced care.
Because there are a range of conditions that share the clinical symptoms of hyperthyroidism, a variety of tests may be used to diagnose your cat's condition. A complete blood count (CBC) urinalysis and chemistry panel can help rule out kidney failure and diabetes. A simple blood test showing elevated T4 levels in the bloodstream may be enough for a definitive diagnosis. Your vet may also check your kitty’s blood pressure or perform an electrocardiogram, chest x-ray or ultrasound.
Treatment Options for Your Cat
There are a number of different treatment options available for cats with hyperthyroidism. They may include:
- Radioactive iodine therapy (likely the safest and most effective treatment option)
- Antithyroid medication
- Surgery to remove the thyroid
- Modified diet
Diet For Cats With Hyperthyroidism
Hyperthyroidism in cats can often be managed through an iodine-restricted prescription diet from your vet. Iodine intake is necessary for the production of thyroid hormones, so the goal of an iodine-restricted therapeutic diet is to help reduce the production of thyroid hormones by reducing iodine in your cat's diet.
When it comes to cat food for hyperthyroidism, strict adherence to the low-iodine diet is necessary for this treatment to be effective. This can prove challenging for some pet parents and their cats. Along with feeding your cat a prescription food, you will need to strictly monitor your cat's treats, and prevent your cat from hunting for their own meal while outside.
Some studies show that after three weeks of following a prescription hyperthyroidism diet, levels of thyroid hormones begin to decrease, and within a few months, they may even return to normal levels.
Outlook for Cats With Hyperthyroidism
If the condition is diagnosed and treated early, the prognosis for cats suffering from hyperthyroidism is generally good. In some cases where the condition has become more advanced, complications with other organs can worsen the prognosis.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.