Cats with thyroid problems tend to lose weight even though they eat a lot. Hyperthyroidism is a condition that affects mostly aged cats. But we cannot rule out these conditions for tender ages either. Hyperthyroidism is a glandular disorder in cats caused by an excessive concentration of thyroxine hormone known as T4 circulating in the bloodstream.
The thyroid gland is a small but useful gland found on the neck. In the cats, they are found on both sides of the windpipe. What do they do? It produces thyroxine hormone and other hormones that work together automatically to coordinate energy levels, heart rate, body temperature, and body growth. However, these little glands may be faced with disorders when and the levels of hormones it produces become too low or too high leading to other conditions.
It is not easy to tell when the thyroid gland has a problem in cats or dogs. Signs and symptoms are subtle to notice early but become more pronounced as the condition progresses. Failure to notice the condition at early stages risk serious complications and the cat parents are advised to be vigilant of subtle signs and immediately bring them to the attention of a vet.
Causes of hyperthyroidism
The majority of hyperthyroid cases have been traced to increased hormone production attributed to a benign – non-cancerous change of tissues. It may involve both thyroid glands but often, one is severely affected than the other. The abnormal tissues enlarge and the cause for this is still unknown. Environmental factors like chemicals found on the carpets or peel off canned foods are some cases that may be involved. If cats are diagnosed early and subsequent treatment offered, the response is favorable except for a few cases where a malignant tumor called adenocarcinoma is involved. Although it is a rare condition, its treatment is limited too.
Diagnosis of hyperthyroidism
Clinical signs for hyperthyroidism include increased appetite and weight loss. It has been proven that increased appetite and loss of weight are imminent for cats with this condition. Weight loss is seen between 95 and 98 percent of cats suffering from hyperthyroidism. Increased appetite is between 67 and 81 percent of cats suffering from this condition. Other signs include; excessive thirsty, frequent urination, unkempt appearance, hyperactivity, panting, diarrhea, shedding, and vomiting. The clinical signs are a result of increased levels of T4 cells on organs.
Common diseases for older cats share the same clinical signs, for example, diabetes, IBD, intestinal cancer, and kidney failure, show similar clinical signs as hyperthyroidism, extensive tests are required to diagnose the condition. CBC and urinalysis tests alone are not sufficient to rule hyperthyroidism but will rule out kidney failure and diabetes. A definitive diagnosis for the condition is taking a blood test for the level of T4 cells in the bloodstream. If this test is ignored in the first place a vet may misdiagnose the condition for liver disease because of elevated live enzymes. What is challenging is cats with the hyperthyroid condition will have normal T4 cells level and the possible explanation is; T4 cells can fluctuate and a concurrent illness can suppress elevated T4 cells to normal range making vets take the thyroid status of a cat as normal. Geriatric cats have concurrent diseases often; diagnosis of hyperthyroidism can be tricky.
Hyperthyroidism treatment in cats
There are several treatment options for hyperthyroidism in cats each with its advantages and flipsides. Let’s delve into each option for you to weigh which one is relevant for your cat.
Oral administration – anti-thyroid medicines
Methimazole has long been a drug used to treat hyperthyroidism for our feline friends. It is effective in keeping into a check the condition within three weeks of administration.
Side effects of using Methimazole (Tapazole) include; loss of appetite, lethargy, vomiting, blood clots, jaundice, itching, and blood cell abnormalities. These side effects are commonly mild and resolve on their own but some require discontinuation of the medication.
This mode of hyperthyroidism treatment requires a life-long medication which is difficult for those cats who resist pills. CBC and T4 cell levels will require close monitoring for the rest of the cat’s life.
This method requires a surgical procedure to remove the thyroid gland. The condition is usually caused by benign tumor-thyroid adenoma in one or both of the thyroid glands. These thyroid glands can easily be removed because they are well-encapsulated tumors. Surgery can cure the condition completely but the challenge is the use of anesthesia for old cats with heart and other organ conditions. Surgical treatment may seem expensive because it is a one-time cost but compared to oral treatment, it is less expensive in the long run.
Radioactive iodine therapy
This mode of hyperthyroid treatment is the best and the most sophisticated model. radioactive iodine is injected under the skin and it concentrates in the thyroid gland. It does its work by irritating and destroying the hyper-functioning tissue. It requires surgery or any anesthesia and only one treatment is enough until cure. This treatment used to be offered only by specialized and licensed facilities but today it is available even in private facilities all over. Cats undergoing radioactive iodine therapy need to be hospitalized for 10 to 14 days when the level of radioactivity in their fecal matter or urine reaches an acceptable range. The cost of this treatment is not suitable for cat owners on a budget. It will cost between $500 and $800 to get the therapy which most cat owners can’t afford.
Food supplements may be helpful especially raw-meat-based cat food. Other supplementations that support or balance thyroid gland are considered for hyperthyroidism management.
In conclusion, if you notice signs like vomiting, diarrhea, intolerance to cold unkempt skin coat, loss of weight even when your cat has a hearty appetite and change of behavior, seek the attention of a vet before things get worse. Early detection of this conditions also improves the chances of cure while if unnoticed until later stages things become complicated.