The most common thyroid problem in cats is hyperthyroidism and involves the overproduction or over-release of the thyroid hormone T-4 in the bloodstream. Signs are weight loss and increased appetite. Leaving it untreated can cause heart issues and/or death. Whenever these signs occur it is best to take your cat to the veterinary as soon as possible.
The Thyroid gland in the cats body is located in the neck of the cat. There are two thyroid glands, one on the left and one of the right side. The Thyroid gland produces and excretes a Thyroid hormone – T4 – into the blood stream which sets a scala of organs in operation.
The organs will start a process, commonly called Metabolism. Metabolism is the process that converts all that you eat and drink into energy for the body to use and function. In other words, these thyroid glances are extremely important to our life-sustaining activities and when they start to malfunction and over-work or under-work we will end up with problems.
Cats likewise end up in a lot of problems when their thyroid function is impaired.
What Are Thyroid Problems In Cats?
Thyroid problems in cats have to do with the thyroid hormone produced in the cats’ body that cause a lot of different issues for their health. The thyroid gland produces and controls the release of the T4 hormone in the body and controls the rate of metabolism in the body.
A proper working thyroid gland makes sure that food gets properly and at a proper rate metabolized and used by the body. When the thyroid gland produces and releases too much T4 Thyroid hormones, the processes in the body get accepted and the body’s organs have to work harder.
The body will burn food faster and this will mean that the stomach will be empty faster, resulting in increased appetite. The increased burning will also mean that more food will be processed than that is being fed, so that the cat loses weight. Possibly because of low food intake, the body might start eating away on body reserves.
For faster working organs also a faster heart pump rate is required. The heart is trying to keep up with the bodies’ functions and this in turn will put a lot of strain on the heart, which can cause concerning and fatal heart situations.
Older Cat Disease
Thyroid problems usually occur in older cats. Less than 6% of Hyperthyroid problems in cats are reported to be younger than 10 years of age, with an average onset of 12-13 years.
Clear Signs Of Thyroid Problems
The most common signs of thyroid issues are weight loss while having increased appetite.
Other clear signs that are on top of the weight loss and appetite increase, are:
- excessive thirst
- increased urination
- unkempt appearance
- increased shedding
Unfortunately there are many other illnesses, such as kidney failure, diabetes, IBD and intestinal cancer, that share the same symptoms and signs above, so the best thing to do is to take your cat to a veterinary for checkup when such signs surface.
Where Do Thyroid Problems Come From?
The reasons are not properly and scientifically proven yet, but there are many theories about it on the internet. One major reason could be an environmental one. We got in our daily lives a lot of things of chemical property that could influence anyone’s body in a bad way. Think about plastics and plastic coatings on the things we wear (clothing), the things we used to store and prepare food in (boxes, cups, plates, pans), chemicals and antibiotics on crops, in livestock and generally in food production as well as preservatives.
The same can be said about iodine foods that influence our natural iodine levels in our bodies. In the past they added a lot of iodine to salts and said it was good for us.
By nature we would eat a lot of fish that have iodine levels naturally in their system. Cat food is often produced of these same fish, but with the other environmental toxifications we might have destroyed the balances. The other problem is that cat food is stored in tins that are coated with BPAs. Especially fish meats are able to take up more of these BPAs in the food while being stored.
How Are Thyroid Problems In Cats Diagnosed?
Since most of the symptoms are related to a lot of other illnesses, the only way to diagnose thyroid problems in cats is through a battery of tests.
The following tests are performed to rule out diabetes and kidney failure:
- Chemistry Panel
- Urine Analysis
In most cases, hyperthyroid issues can be diagnosed by a simple blood test that shows elevated T4 levels. In rare cases, the T4 levels vary too much over the period of the day that they will have to do alternative testing. There is one in which they have to let you give your cat a tablet for some days before the next blood test to amplify the results.
With very difficult cases and as a last alternative to test for Hyperthyroid activity, there is a so called Thyroid Scan that should only be performed when all other illnesses have been ruled out. In this test an injection with radioactive metal is given that will light up on an X-Ray like scan. This test is usually also more expensive and will therefore only be used in cases where it is absolutely impossible to diagnose the cat otherwise.
How Are Thyroid Problems Treated?
There are currently three different ways to treat Thyroid problems in cats:
- Oral Administration of medicine every day for the rest of the cat’s life
- Surgical Removal
- Radioactive Iodine Treatment
- Extra treatment: Special Diet
Oral Administration Of Medicine
This isn’t for everybody, as it requires a certain technique and cats are generally not that glad to be meddled with. Methimazole is the working ingredient and reduces the symptoms in 2-3 weeks time. Unfortunately medication comes with side effects and as such might experience loss of appetite, vomiting, lethargy and blood cell abnormalities.
CBC and T4 levels need to be re-checked regularly to check if everything is in working order. While pilling is cheaper, the re-checks will make it surely expensive in the long run.
With surgical removal, parts or all of the Thyroid gland is removed. Usually there is a benign tumor around the Thyroid gland that can be removed using surgery. The big problem with surgical removal is that it is hard to decide or see what should be removed or left alone. How much of the tissue is bad and needs surgical removal and how much of it will be okay to stay.
Removing too little means that the problems may continue, removing too many means perhaps that underproduction starts (hypothyroidism) and the opposite effects will show (obesity, reduced appetite).
In some cases there are other places in the body of the cat that will take over for the Thyroid glands and produce the hormone. The difficulty is to figure out whether they will also overproduce or under produce or whether everything will stay in a healthy balance. This can also result in that you still need to give your cat medication in the long run or perform even more surgery.
Another problem with surgery is that the cats we are talking about are usually of older age at 11-14 years of age and might not handle the anesthesia that needs to be used to perform the surgery.
Radioactive Iodine Treatment
This is by far the most effective treatment. A special radioactive iodine is injected into the cats’ body and will destroy the bad hyper functioning thyroid tissue. The treatment is however expensive in most countries as a one-off. The good thing is that it is a very effective treatment that takes care of the problem straight away. You generally do not need many checkups afterwards and you neither need to medicate afterwards.
It does mean that your cat needs to be hospitalized for some time before and after the treatment, to make sure that the radioactive iodine reside from the body properly.
Extra Treatment: Special Diet
As a preventive measure and as a life-long continue of treatment against the disease, iodine intake should be reduced. There are special foods on the market, specifically the Hills Scientific Plan Y/D Diet, that have reduced levels of iodine and will help your cat thrive better.
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