Pet Matters: Hyperthyroidism in cats

April 29, 2019

A very common ailment in older cats is hyperthyroidism, which is the thyroid gland producing excess hormone. Thyroxin regulates many aspects of metabolism, and when too much is produced, there can be serious issues. Sometimes symptoms, such as excessive urination, uncontrollable hunger and thirst, weight loss, and hyperactivity, make it apparent something is wrong. On the other hand, some symptoms may not be outwardly visible. Cardiomyopathy, a thickening of heart muscles, makes it harder for the heart to pump blood. This eventually leads to hypertension (high blood pressure). If left unchecked, more serious health complications can develop.

One of my cats recently received the hyperthyroidism diagnosis after getting a regular senior screening, which included a blood panel. My veterinarian explained there are several treatment options to consider. The most common treatment used an anti-thyroid medication called methimazole.

This medication is available in pill, liquid compound, or a gel transdermally applied to the cat’s ear. We are still working with the vet to monitor the correct dosage.

Other more expensive options include surgery or radiation therapy. Both require visiting a specialty clinic — one to surgically remove the affected thyroid tissue, the other uses radioactive iodine to destroy thyroid tissue. Once either procedure is completed, no further thyroid medications are needed.

A last option is a special iodine-restricted diet. This can be challenging, especially if there are multiple cats. And no other foods, including treats, are allowed for the remainder of the cat’s lifetime.

When choosing a treatment, we need to consider the cost, convenience, and the cat’s disposition. All treatments require regular follow-up blood work to monitor thyroid levels.

If the feline does not cooperate taking medications, one of the other options may be better. After the high initial cost, you only have to do regular blood work. It is in the best interest of the cat to treat the disease, rather than ignore it, hoping the cat survives. Without treatment, the cat will progressively have a lesser quality of life.

Once an effective treatment is established, the cat will typically live out a normal life with minimal thyroid issues. A good veterinarian will help guide you in finding solutions.

The Western Arizona Humane Society is open Monday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., with kennel hours from 10-4. Call 855-5083 for details. To find lost pets, call 855-4111. To view pets found, see www.lhcpd.com.