Hyperthyroidism in cats

One of the most common diseases we are seeing these days in practice is hyperthyroidism in cats. Hyperthyroidism is a disease of the endocrine system mainly in our feline friends that occurs when the body produces too much thyroxine. This is so common that in the UK that it is estimated that 12% of cats over 9 years old will suffer from this, it’s hard to say if this disease is becoming more common or if we just manage to diagnose it much easier than we did years ago.

So what do we need to watch out for? Well most of these cats come in to us after their owners call us worried that their cat is always hungry, a really ravenous appetite and it’s usually got to the point where owners are almost tearing their hair out that no matter how much they feed their cat they’re always asking for more. These cats are also not gaining weight from their ravenous appetite, usually continuously losing weight which is a big indicator that their metabolism isn’t quite right! These cats will also have a much higher heart rate as this will affect their cardiovascular system, raising blood pressure and consequently will have an impact on other organs such as the liver and also the digestive system causing vomiting and diarrhoea. Most of these cats will also have a poor coat, sometimes fur loss and generally a look of ‘wear and tear’ about them!

So how can we help these cats? As with all diseases the sooner it’s diagnosed the easier it’s treated. We are very lucky that with the advances in veterinary medicine this disease can usually be treated very effectively. Usually it’s treated very well with tablets and most cats stabilise very quickly and owners notice a big difference in their friend over just a few weeks of treatment, although this is a life long medication for the cats to keep them stable. For some cats surgery can be considered which involves removing the thyroid gland but this surgery does pose risks and so not all cats will be candidates, this should be discussed in great detail with your veterinary surgeon. Radioiodine treatment can be used but this is only available in certain veterinary hospitals in the UK and is quite a pricey treatment!

A lot of cats are unfortunately suffering from quite a few issues by the time this disease is diagnosed but when stabilised these cats generally do very well and by the time we see them back for a check up we usually see a much healthier cat and a much happier owner!

If you are concerned that your cat is showing these symptoms then please do discuss this with your veterinary surgeon, a quick blood test is all it takes for diagnosis and with treatment you will have a much happier healthy cat.