Does My Cat Have Hyperthyroidism?

Published: April 1, 2019

Academy Animal Hospital Greenwood

You know your cat better than anyone. Her favorite food, her favorite toys, her favorite nap spot. You also know when something just isn’t right with her. If your cat’s behavior or appearance has suddenly changed, you know something is wrong. What you probably don’t know is what that something is.

If your cat is older, there’s a fair chance she’s suffering from hyperthyroidism. It’s a common hormonal disorder in cats over 8 years old and is characterized by many different symptoms. If your cat is experiencing any of these symptoms, you’ll want to take her to the vet to have her tested for feline hyperthyroidism:

  • Increased appetite
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Hyperactivity
  • Fast heart rate
  • Difficulty breathing/panting
  • Occasional weakness
  • Insatiable thirst
  • Increased urination
  • Increased defecation or sudden diarrhea
  • Unexplained aggressive behavior
  • Unexplained vomiting
  • Unkempt coat
  • Sudden shedding
So What Is Hyperthyroidism?

So now that you know there’s a chance your sick kitty could have hyperthyroidism, what is it anyway?

Your cat has two thyroid glands located on either side of her neck. If one or both of them become enlarged, they can overproduce a hormone called thyroxine. Elevated levels of this hormone in the bloodstream point to a condition called hyperthyroidism.

Thyroxine affects the function of most organs, which is why cats with hyperthyroidism show so many different kinds of symptoms. One of its main purposes is to regulate metabolism, which explains why weight loss and increased appetite are the most common symptoms in cats with hyperthyroidism. Additionally, elevated amounts of thyroxine put the cat at risk of damage to the heart, kidneys, and other organs. This is why it’s important to take your cat to the vet as soon as you notice something is off.

Visiting the Vet

The symptoms of feline hyperthyroidism are common to many other diseases, so your vet will need to perform some tests to make a definite diagnosis. Sometimes a cat’s enlarged thyroid glands can be felt and are a good indication of what’s going on, but bloodwork is usually required to verify. Because hormone levels change from day to day, your vet may choose to take blood samples a few different times.

If blood tests are inconclusive, a nuclear medicine scan may be ordered next. Your cat will be given a small dose of a radioactive compound that will follow her bloodstream to the thyroid glands. Hyperactive glands attract more of the compound than healthy glands do, and will be visible on a scan. After the test, your cat will need to be hospitalized while her body clears itself of the radioactive compound.

Treating Hyperthyroidism

If tests prove your furry friend has hyperthyroidism, there are three common treatments to control her hormone levels:

  • Life-long anti-thyroid medications
  • Surgery
  • Intravenous radioactive iodine treatments

Your vet will decide which treatment or combination of treatments is best for your cat’s specific case, depending on the severity of her hyperthyroidism and how it has affected her health in general. Unfortunately, many cats with hyperthyroidism also suffer from other diseases, which complicates treatment, but with your vet, you can pick the best course of action for your kitty’s comfort and well-being.

When You Aren’t Sure

Even the best pet owner won’t have all the answers when it comes to their pet’s health. The trick is to know what is normal for your cat so when she begins behaving differently you know to take it as a sign that something’s wrong. After that, the best thing you can do is consult with a vet and follow their advice.

If your cat is showing signs of hyperthyroidism or any other disease, don’t hesitate to call the experts at Academy Animal Hospital. We can give you a diagnosis and treatment options for your feline friend to help get her feeling better fast!