By Dr. Falter, Associate Veterinarian
Hyperthyroidism is a common malady of older cats. The typical patient with hyperthyroidism is over the age of 10 years old. Any breed or gender of cat may be affected. The disease occurs when small, benign growths on the thyroid gland, located on the neck, produce too much thyroid hormone.
At home, the cat’s owner may notice that their cat is losing weight despite having a normal or increased appetite. A cat with hyperthyroidism may lose a dramatic amount of weight in a very short period of time. The cat may also seem agitated, overly active or display other odd behaviors. They may also have an increase in thirst and urination. During a physical examination, our veterinarians may notice a heart murmur, abnormal heart rhythm, and/or an enlarged thyroid gland.
At Pet Dominion, we recommend that all senior cats be screened for hyperthyroidism, along with other conditions such as kidney disease, twice yearly. Diagnosis of hyperthyroidism is made by detection of an elevated thyroid level, sometimes called a T4. The cat may also have elevated liver enzymes or high blood pressure as a result of hyperthyroidism. Usually diagnosis is straight-forward, but occasionally a full thyroid panel may be suggested if the cat has symptoms compatible with hyperthyroidsm but their T4 levels are not elevated.
If your cat is diagnosed with hyperthyroidism, do not despair.  There are many treatment options available for your pet. Treatment may be as simple as switching your cat to a prescription diet called Hills YD. For other pets, a twice daily medication called Methimazole may be prescribed. The medication can be formulated in a variety of ways to make medicating your cat a breeze. Additionally, radioactive iodine therapy is a treatment that results in permanent cure of hyperthyroidism without the need for daily medications. Our veterinarians can talk through the options with you to choose the one which is right for your pet.
After starting treatment for hyperthyroidism, your cat will need to have his bloodwork rechecked to make sure that treatment is effective and no side effects from the treatment are occurring. Sometimes it takes a few adjustments of the medication dosage to find the right dose for your pet. Over time, medication needs may change, so it is important to monitor your pet’s labwork at least twice a year, or on a schedule recommended by your veterinarian.
If you suspect that your cat may have a thyroid problem, please give us a call at 301-258-0333 to schedule an appointment.  Has your cat been diagnosed with hyperthyroidism?  Leave us a comment with his/her success story!