Hyperthyroidism in cats can be a common problem as they get older. Cats with hyperthyroid issues have a condition where the thyroid glands of the cat start producing way too many hormones. The glands will get enlarged as well (they are on the neck of the cat). It can cause general problems with a cat’s body.
What causes feline hyperthyroidism?
It is somewhat mysterious as to what exactly causes this syndrome. It’s associated with a kind of tumor that is often found in the enlarged thyroid glands of the cat. The tumor is called an adenoma. However, in most cases they aren’t malignant – but they do mess around with the functioning of the glands pretty badly.
What are the symptoms?
You’ll see a lot of general symptoms. Most cats that get thyroid problems are getting up there age-wise. You may be able to feel the enlarged thyroid glands along the cat’s neck, but it is kind of hard to do without training because they’re pretty small even when “enlarged.” Weight loss is the big one, and it’s what most cat owners notice first. The cat may also have stomach and digestion problems including increased vomiting and diarrhea, along with more shedding and problems with their coat. The cat in many cases will seem like it can’t get enough food or water, even as it is losing weight and eating more.
What is the treatment?
Iodine-based treatments are the main one – not regular iodine, but a radioactive version. This has been used in people for a long time as well. Basically, the thyroid gland uses iodine to make all the hormones it produces – so if you put radioactive iodine into the cat, you know it’s going through the thyroid. No other parts of the body really use it. That makes it a safe way to destroy any cancers or tumors in the thyroid without risking many side effects.
Some vets don’t offer it, however, and for some cats it’s not appropriate. Surgery is the other big treatment for cat thyroid disease. It’s a little riskier because of the problems associated with all surgeries. The vet may remove the entire thyroid gland (or even both glands), or just parts of them that seem to be having problems. In some cases, the cat will need to take medications to act as a “replacement” for the hormones the thyroid glands used to produce. This is usually only in extreme cases, however.
One other option is to use tapazole for cats, a drug that prevents the thyroid from overproducing hormones.