Hyperthyroidism in cats, also known as thyrotoxicosis, occurs when a cat’s thyroid produces too much of the T3 and T4 hormone, due most often to benign or sometimes malignant tumors on the thyroid. Hyperthyroidism is primarily found in middle-aged to older cats, typically 8-13 years and older, but not exclusively. Because thyroid health is an important aspect of overall good health, testing is important.
Causes of Hyperthyroidism in Cats
The thyroid is responsible for doling out the appropriate hormones the cat needs in order to maintain healthy organ function throughout the entire body. When there is a tumor on the thyroid, and the hormones are irregular, it results in serious organ function decline. Some of the tumors found to cause hyperthyroidism, are benign tumors called adenomas, while malignant tumors, which are far less common, are called adenocarcinomas. These tumors interfere with the thyroid’s ability to determine the appropriate amount of hormone to excrete.
How to Prevent Hyperthyroidism in Cats
As there is no known way to effectively prevent hyperthyroidism in cats, it is crucial to perform diagnostic tests early enough to prevent further damage. As cats get older, more frequent visits to the veterinarian for blood tests may become necessary. Be diligent at notifying your veterinarian about any new behaviors or physical changes. This may help your vet in determining whether or not to test for hyperthyroidism.
Hyperthyroidism in Cats Tests Explained
To test for hyperthyroidism, your veterinarian will check the thickness of the cat’s neck, where the thyroid is located. If there is any additional tissue, such as a tumor or enlarged glands, the veterinarian will sometimes be able to feel the lump. If this is indicative of hyperthyroidism, a blood-chemistry test may be ordered. This test breaks down the blood chemistry into hormone levels. Usually hyperthyroidism is obvious, based on elevated levels of T4 hormone; however, T4 may be normal while hyperthyroidism exists. Additional testing of the heart and kidneys using urinalysis, can further determine the presents of hyperthyroidism.
Because hyperthyroidism causes the body damage very slowly at first, the symptoms are often overlooked, and categorized as normal aging, such as a dull matted coat. However, a few symptoms may be more obvious, such as weight loss, increased appetite, thirst and urination. Symptoms may also include diarrhea, vomiting, and hyperactivity.
How to Treat Hyperthyroidism in Cats
Three options are available when considering treatment for hyperthyroidism in cats. They are medication, surgery, or radioactive-iodine therapy. Consult with your veterinarian about the positives and negatives of each treatment, and which is best for the circumstances of your cat’s progress in the disease.