by Petfolk Care Team
Medically reviewed by Dr. Jessica Taylor
As cats get older their bodies begin to undergo changes that can disrupt normal organ function. One common organ to be affected by these changes is the thyroid gland. As a cat ages, the probability of a benign tumor (adenoma) growing on the thyroid gland increases. This results in the thyroid gland becoming enlarged and overproducing one of the major thyroid hormones called thyroxine (T4). This is commonly known as hyperthyroidism.
Symptoms of Hyperthyroidism in Cats
Early symptoms of hyperthyroidism include:
- Increased appetite
- Increased thirst and urination
- Weight loss
- Unkempt hair coat which will appear matted and greasy
How to Diagnose Hyperthyroidism in Cats
To diagnose hyperthyroidism in a cat, a thorough veterinary physical examination is necessary. During this physical exam the veterinarian will palpate or touch the neck region for an enlarged thyroid gland. They will also request a blood chemistry panel that includes testing multiple parts of the body, including a thyroid test that measures the T4 levels in the blood. If the value of T4 in the blood is higher than the target range, then the veterinarian may add additional testing or begin a treatment plan. Since hyperthyroidism can cause heart complications, a heart rate and blood pressure measurement might be checked at the visit as well.
Managing Hyperthyroidism in Cats
There are a few routes to go for the management of hyperthyroidism. The most common is a drug called Methimazole. This daily medication helps regulate the hormone levels that the body no longer can do independently. There are also some more permanent treatments such as Radioactive Iodine treatment, which requires a special facility and testing. Your veterinarian can best advise you if this or another method of treatment is best for your cat.
Annual physical examinations are crucial for cats 8+ years of age. The level of thyroid hormones in their system can be monitored and any signs of hyperthyroidism can be caught early. This reduces the risk of the cat developing secondary health concerns and can be treated appropriately. Be sure to keep your annual exams to keep your furry feline happy and healthy.