Your cat's thyroid releases hormones that regulate many processes within the body. When thyroid hormone levels become too high, (hyperthyroidism), your cat is at risk of developing serious health issues. Today our Las Vegas vets explain how hyperthyroidism in cats can be treated with dietary changes.
What is hyperthyroidism in cats?
The thyroid glands are located in your cat's neck and produce a variety of hormones that aid in the regulation of many bodily processes as well as controlling your cat's metabolic rate. Your cat will exhibit symptoms of hypothyroidism (low levels of hormone) or hyperthyroidism (too much hormone) if the thyroid produces too much or too little of these hormones.
If your cat is suffering from hyperthyroidism, their metabolism will speed up. This means that your cat will tend to burn energy too quickly, resulting in weight loss, even if you notice that your cat is eating considerably more food than usual.
What are the symptoms of hyperthyroidism in cats?
While any breed of cat can suffer from hyperthyroidism, most cats diagnosed with this condition are older. Typically between 12 and 13 years old. Female and male cats are equally impacted.
Symptoms of hyperthyroidism in cats are frequently subtle at first but gradually worsen over time. Other underlying health issues can also complicate or mask the symptoms of hyperthyroidism, so it's critical to see your vet as soon as your cat exhibits any of the symptoms listed below. Cats with an excess of thyroid hormone may exhibit one or more 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
When the condition becomes more advanced, some cats will pant when they are stressed, which is unusual for cats. Although most cats suffering from hyperthyroidism have a good appetite and are restless, others may feel weak, lethargic, or experience a lack of appetite.
What causes hyperthyroidism?
Hyperthyroidism is most often caused by a non-cancerous tumor located somewhere on the thyroid gland. In some rare cases, however, the tumor can develop into thyroid cancer.
What are the long-term complications of hyperthyroidism?
Left untreated, hyperthyroidism can impact the function of your cat's heart and possibly lead to heart failure.
Hyperthyroidism can also cause high blood pressure in your cat. Though we see it less frequently, high blood pressure in cats is linked to other serious health issues such as brain, kidney, heart, and eye damage. If your cat has hypertension in addition to hyperthyroidism, they will need medication to control their blood pressure.
Hyperthyroidism and kidney disease often occur at the same time in older cats. When both of these conditions are present, they need to be closely monitored and managed, as managing hyperthyroidism can sometimes adversely affect kidney function.
How is hyperthyroidism diagnosed?
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. Veterinary internal medicine and state-of-the-art diagnostic testing can help diagnose your pet's condition and provide advanced care.
Because there are several 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 revealing elevated T4 levels in the bloodstream may be sufficient for a definitive diagnosis. Your veterinarian may also take your cat's blood pressure and perform an electrocardiogram, chest x-ray, or ultrasound.
How will my vet treat my cat’s hyperthyroidism?
Depending on the results of your cat's tests, your vet may choose one of several treatment options for their hyperthyroidism. They may include:
- Radioactive iodine therapy (likely the safest and most effective treatment option)
- Antithyroid medication
- Surgery to remove the thyroid
- Modified diet
How can hyperthyroidism be treated with a modified diet?
Hyperthyroidism in cats is often treatable with an iodine-restricted prescription diet from your veterinarian. Because iodine is required for the production of thyroid hormones, the goal of an iodine-restricted therapeutic diet is to help reduce thyroid hormone production by reducing iodine in your cat's diet.
Strict adherence to the low-iodine diet is necessary for this treatment to be effective, which can prove challenging for some pet parents and their cats. Along with feeding your cat a prescription food for hyperthyroidism, 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.
What is the prognosis for cats with hyperthyroidism?
The prognosis for cats suffering from hyperthyroidism is generally good if the condition is diagnosed and treated early. Complications with other organs can worsen the prognosis in some cases where the condition has progressed.
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.