Sunday, October 1, 2023

Hyperthyroidism in cats, what is it?

The cat’s thyroid gland

The thyroid gland controls metabolism and secretes, among other things, the hormone thyroxine (T4). The thyroid gland is located in the lower part of the neck, below the voice box. It is divided into two lobes located on each side of the trachea, in the central line of the throat. In a healthy cat, the thyroid gland is not felt.

Hyperthyroidism usually affects older cats and symptoms usually appear after the age of 8, but even cats as young as 4 years old can be affected.

Symptoms of hyperthyroidism in cats

  • The cat loses weight despite having a good appetite
  • Enlarged thyroid gland
  • Behavior change: increased activity, anxiety, aggression.
  • Hair loss, alteration of coat quality.
  • Increased thirst and urination.
  • Diarrhea and vomiting
  • Acceleration of heart and respiratory rate.
  • intense meowing
  • Noticeable fatigue after a while.

Many cats become more active, but there are cats that, on the contrary, withdraw, become inactive, eat less and become weak. Since cats with hyperthyroidism are usually elderly, it is worth keeping in mind that several diseases can present with similar symptoms.

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Diagnosis of hyperthyroidism.

Veterinarians diagnose hyperthyroidism by taking blood samples to measure the amount of the thyroid hormone, thyroxine (T4). Since the disease affects other organs such as the kidneys and the heart and other parallel diseases may appear, several parameters are controlled. Elevated liver values ​​are common and are most often due to hyperthyroidism. If the cat simultaneously has kidney problems, kidney values ​​may remain falsely normal due to the effects of hyperthyroidism. The heart may be affected and should be examined by ultrasound and it is common to measure blood pressure.

The cause of hyperthyroidism in most cases is benign changes in the thyroid gland, called adenomas. Very rarely there are malignant changes. In about 70% of cases, changes occur in both parts of the thyroid gland. In about 80-90% of cases, the enlarged thyroid gland can be palpated with the fingers.

Cats potentially affected by hyperthyroidism may be very sensitive to the stress associated with sampling and various examinations. Therefore, they should be handled in as calm an environment as possible; Sedatives can sometimes be given.

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Treatment of hyperthyroidism in cats.

Once the diagnosis is made, the veterinarian offers a treatment adapted to your cat. Each treatment method has advantages and disadvantages. Your cat’s age may play a role, as may the presence of other illnesses; The goal of treatment is to restore normal thyroid function.

  • Drugs
  • Foods without iodine
  • Radioactive iodine injection
  • Surgery

Medications to reduce thyroid hormone production.

One treatment method is to administer medication twice a day. The medication is available in liquid and tablet form and is intended to block excessive production of thyroid hormones. This medication is administered to the cat daily for life. Periodic visits to the veterinarian are made to adjust the treatment so that the dose is correct and detect possible side effects. Side effects of the medication may include vomiting, diarrhea, decreased appetite, itching, or effects on the bone marrow.

Food without iodine for cats

Foods with iodine can help the cat reduce thyroid hormone. On the other hand, if the cat is treated with this method, he must maintain this diet for life. Periodic visits to the veterinarian are necessary to monitor the effectiveness of the treatment.

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Radioactive iodine injection

An injection of radioactive iodine is another treatment method. The treatment is essentially curative. The cat receives an injection equivalent to a vaccine, which contains a low dose of radioactive iodine that is absorbed by the thyroid gland and destroys diseased cells. The cat must remain under observation at the clinic for a few days after treatment and certain restrictions are applied at home for a short period.


Surgery is not as common today due to other existing treatment methods. The surgery requires in particular that the cat’s general condition can withstand anesthesia.

Other diseases to take into account

A cat potentially suffering from hyperthyroidism should also be monitored for other diseases with similar symptoms.

  • Diabetes: increased thirst, appetite, urination, and upset stomach.
  • Kidney diseases: stomach, dull coat, increased thirst and urination.
  • Liver diseases: stomach, vomiting, elevated liver values.
  • You die

Photo credit: DR.
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