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Feline Hyper- thyroidism Alert

By Darcy Lockman

Feline Hyper- thyroidism Alert

Does your cat eat a lot yet lose weight? Do you find it chasing its tail around and around? Feline hyperthyroidism may be to blame. It's not uncommon for cats older than seven years to develop the disease, which occurs when an enlarged thyroid begins to secrete excess hormones. Veterinarians don't know what causes hyperthyroidism, but it's fully curable if diagnosed and treated early.

Early Detection
"A routine examination by a veterinarian may pick up on the disease before owners notice any symptoms, and will allow for early treatment interventions," says Rance Sellon, DVM, and associate professor of small animal medicine at Washington State University in Pullman, Washington. "The vet will pick up things like changes in heart rate, heart murmurs, enlarged thyroid gland -- things that owners can't see. That's why it's so important for middle-age to older cats to go to the vet at least once if not twice a year for general health purposes."

Clinical Symptoms
Even the most vet-conscientious pet owners, though, may notice changes in their feline friends before their veterinarians do. Dr. Sellon says that cats with hyperthyroidism can manifest the following symptoms:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Weight loss that often occurs in face of normal or increased appetite
  • Increased appetite
  • Excess water consumption and urination
  • Changes in behavior (e.g., couch potato cats become quite active, or active cats exhibit a change in time of activity -- suddenly beginning to play all night, every night)
  • Excessive meowing
  • Lethargy (in only a small proportion of cats with hyperthyroidism)
  • Changes in skin and hair

A simple blood test will detect the presence of feline hyperthyroidism. Your veterinarian will draw a few milliliters of blood, and test it for serum thyroid hormone concentration, or T4 level. "Your cat will object more to being restrained than to being stuck with a needle," says Dr. Sellon. Test results will often be back in less than 48 hours.

Treatment Options
The three most common treatments for feline hyperthyroidism are medication, thyroidectomy and radioactive iodine therapy. The medication -- methimazole -- can be administered orally or topically, and controls but does not cure the disease. In most cases, your pet will need to take the drug every day for the rest of its life.

Thyroidectomy, the surgical removal of one or both halves of the thyroid gland, is curative, but carries with it general anesthesia risks, which are more pronounced in cats with underlying heart conditions. Your cat can live comfortably, though, without its thyroid. "Sometimes a cat will need hormone supplementation, but the impact on the animal is usually quite small," says Dr. Sellon. "The skill of the surgeon is, of course, important. The doctor needs to take care to preserve the parathyroid gland, or the cat can develop severe problems with low calcium." If only one half of the gland is removed, the disease can reappear in the other half.

With radioactive iodine therapy, the cat is given a subcutaneous injection of radioactive iodine. It is then kept in isolation until radioactive levels return to safe levels (the number of days differs from state to state). "This is a very effective treatment, but is limited in its availability," says Dr. Sellon. "Usually only one injection is required, and it resolves all signs of the disease."

Other Considerations
As a first step, many veterinarians will recommend treating a cat with methamizole. Hyperthyroidism can mask kidney disease, and it can also help maintain kidney function for cats with both conditions. Curing hyperthyroidism once and for all with the other two procedures, then, could potentially worsen kidney function in cats with latent renal problems. "If the initial drug treatment leads to decreased kidney function," explains Dr. Sellon, "your veterinarian can find a dose of methamizole that controls the symptoms of hyperthyroidsim, but still maintains the kidneys."

The Importance of Treatment
If left untreated, feline hyperthyroidism can shorten a cat's lifespan, resulting in congestive heart failure, ocular disease, and hypertension. If treated appropriately, your furry friend will live a long and healthy life. That's something worth meowing over.

Darcy Lockman is a Brooklyn, N.Y.-based freelance writer and frequent contributor to The Daily Cat. Her work has appeared in publications such as the New York Times and Rolling Stone.

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Posted on January 18, 2010

Cindy Green says: My 17 year old cat has a hyperthroid. I adopted him when he was 9 years old and he lived under the bed for the first five years that I had him. This past year he became a different cat, happy and very social. He was diagnosed with a hyperthroid and was taken medication. the medication did not work. the only option I have is to give him radiation treatment. I'm kind of leaning on doing nothing cause I do not want to freak him out once again....I'm afraid he will have a set back. Maybe I should let him be a happy cat til the end????? help.

Posted on May 27, 2010

charlotte says: We estimate our cat is about 20-22? He was diagnosed late, did poorly with meds, and is so frail we're opting to forgo medication. He is blind now, and just sleeps all the time. (We've found he'll use puppy pads for incontinence.) Vet says he's comfortable, so we're going week by week. I wish there was a clear answer for us, but everybody's story is just a little different. When he takes a turn, we'll have him put down right away. Until then, he still enjoys his rubs and short visits into the backyard.

Posted on August 4, 2009

Valerie says: My cat was diagnosed with hyperthyroid and has been taking the medication but still screams in the middle of the night. Please help. Will this stop? This is no way for either of us to live.

Posted on November 20, 2009

Jenn says: My cat, Obie, is only ten and he started losing weight rapidly about six months ago. I took him to the vet and they tested his T4 and it turns out he has hyperthyroidism. After putting him on Tapazole for three months and no change, I decided to go ahead and get him the Radiocative Iodine Therapy or I-131 Treatment. Yes, it was expensive-- $1300, but he's fairly young and was basically starving to death, so I figured in the long run it was worth it. He's literally a perfect indoor cat who never tries to get out an open door, loves everyone he meets immediately, and is just a lover overall, so he's definitely worth it! Most people can't imagine spending that amount of money on a cat, but when they're your little buddy, it's worth saving their life. He's done a complete 180-- no more crying at night or when he has to go to the bathroom (the vet said his intestines had shrunk, so trouble with using the bathroom), no more feedings every four hours, etc. He's all better and I would do it all over again!

Posted on December 7, 2008

Pam says: Bogey will be 18 yrs old in Feb'09. One month ago I had to have my other 17 yr old cat put to sleep. He had many complications from diabetes and a degenerative bone disease. Bogey has been showing all the symptoms of hyperthyroidism for a few months (now that I know what it is) - constant drinking and eating and urinating. We are going to be moving cross country in January or Feb. He has never lived anywhere but in this house and has been strictly a house cat. I'm afraid the stress from losing our other cat is taking a toll on him. I'm very worried about driving him and having him live in a new place. He's nearly impossible to pill although I would be able to give him injections if the medication is available that way. I could use another cat lovers opinion on whether or not I should be putting him through all this stress.

Posted on December 7, 2008

Linda says: My wonderful female cat is 15 yrs old and I adopted her at 11 yrs. She has been diabetic for the past 2 yrs and now is hyperthyroid. Less than 2 yrs ago she was 16.5 lbs and now is less than 9. She has been on the medication for 2 weeks but still having up to 6-8 loose bowel movements a day and very lethargic. She was meowing constantly but now has little energy. I cannot let her go on like this and don't want her to suffer. When should I see results from the medication? She seems to be worse than she was or maybe organs are shutting down. Her behind is all sunken in now and cannot keep food in her. Please help. Thank you!

Posted on September 18, 2008

Mary Charge says: When the vet found out that my cat had hyperthroid he put him on methomagole, one tablet twice a day. Now my cat is blind because of a detached retina. Every month when I brought my cat in for an exam the vet examined his eyes and found nothing wrong. I have been told the blindness was something the vet could not see coming. Still I wonder.

Posted on September 18, 2008

Mary Charge says: When the vet found out that my cat had hyperthroid he put him on methomagole, one tablet twice a day. Now my cat is blind because of a detached retina. Every month when I brought my cat in for an exam the vet examined his eyes and found nothing wrong. I have been told the blindness was something the vet could not see coming. Still I wonder.

Posted on October 23, 2008

Sylvia Eckles says: Our 17 year old calico, Tabris, developed gum disease, and her teeth (except for her molars) were removed. She improved tremendously, but she then began pulling out (and losing) her fur in large clumps. She also develops sores on her skin. She has lost a great deal of weight, and she looks a mess! She has a diagnosis of hyperthyroidism, and was prescribed Methimazole 5 mg., which I crush up in her food. She has an enormous appetite as well as an excessive water intake. While she will defacate in the cat box, she will only urinate on newspapers. She cannot groom herself well at all. Still, she is active, and lets us know when she wants to be fed. I've thought about having her put down, but we won't do this so long as she is not in distress. It's tough to see her like this.

Posted on September 17, 2008

elizabeth Rogers says: My calico is 15 years. old. She was diagonsed with hyperthyroidism and probably has had it about 9 months ... that's when she started developing symptoms. I took her to the vet and her T4 level was 19.1 - Wow! She is very healthy otherwise. I've opted to have the radioactive iodine treatment. The cure rate, although not 100% ... is pretty close at 97%. Compared to the stress of giving her medication 3 times a day and constantly subjecting her to blood work for liver checks ... the cost is comparable. At $1200 not including the initial blood work, urine analysis and chest xrays which were another $500. I realize the cost for some might be unreasonable, but if you can swing it, you can buy another half a dozen years for your cat. Best of luck to all.

Posted on August 21, 2008

raquel says: i have had my cat for 15years old.she has been taking the methomazole pills for just about almost a year now.she was doing better for so long,but now she's been gaging lately,lost weight, symptom ontop of symptom and recently thrown up.i had taken her to another pet clinic.i was told they would like to look down her throat and clarify what she has.i am 99% certain she has hyperthyroidism!comon. ive been researching on my own and want to inject her with the radioactive iodine,since im afraid she wont make it through actual surgery. my main concerns are,IS SHE TOO OLD FOR A MAJOR TREATMENT,AND OR TOO LATE IN HER CONDITION?IM AFRAID OF DEVELOPING KIDNEY DISEASE,CONGESTIVE HEART FAILURE,OSTEOPROSIS.i dont want my kitty to suffer or be in pain. im just looking for a legit profesional upfront answer or somewhat sugestion..something.times running out.i dont know what to do thanks

Posted on June 14, 2008

Ryan says: I dont like how you said There is no such thing as it being impossible to take your cat to the vet. Get a pet carrier!! I have a asmatic cat who cant travill his tung hangs out he hiper ventalates and stopes breathing. He is a csu cat and has in house vets. So dont tell people!! Thanks Ryan

Posted on July 2, 2008

Lori says: Does anyone know how long an untreated hyperthyroid cat can live? The T4 is 9.7 currently.

Posted on July 5, 2008

Sandy Borntraeger says: My cat, Jessie has hyperthyroidism and the Vet suggested taking her to a clinic in Florida. (We live in Jacksonville, FL). Cat Thyroid Clinic in Rustin, FL. Do you know this place and do you recommend it? Can you give us the address and phone number? Jessie is 8 and is taking the thyroid medicine twice a day (l/4 of a pill in the morning and 1/2 pill in the evening.) She has a reaction to the thyroid medicine so she is also taking hydroxyzaine HCL - one tablet twice a day. What are your thoughts on the removal of the thyroid and her medication. She has stoppedd throwing up, but does meow a lot and is listliss as well as losing hair. Thank you, Sandy

Posted on July 11, 2008

jessica says: my cat is a good cat but i dont understand why he bites me when i am petting him, he comes to me so that i can pet him but then he gets ruff and bites me. i also want to know why he attacks my step son. me and my spouse are the only ones in the house and when kids are there he hisses and trys to attack them. why?

Posted on July 12, 2008

pam corn says: how long does it take to see improvement with Methomazole? i'm giving him a half tablet once a day. his level was 12.3

Posted on March 21, 2008

joyce ament says: my cat was in heat a week befor she got fixed can she be with kittens ? and what do the do when they fix a femail cat what do they remove

Posted on March 23, 2008

Ronnie says: My cat is 16 years old and was diagnosed wit Hyperthroidism about 2 years ago. We have been treating her with Methomazole Transdermal gel twice a day. She has been screaming/crying at about 3:30 am every morning. When I jump out of bed to quiet her and feed her she stops. How do we stop her from screaming in the middle of the night. I started giving her

Posted on April 16, 2008

Margie Weiss says: Balou, 13 years old, indoor cat with bathroom outdoors via pet door. Told that one disease could be making a normal thyroid test reading. To go for abdominal and chest xrays to rule out cancer, etc. What else can we do? Is Ambesol good for his gums? He seems to be ok other than hair and weight loss. Thank you. Margie Weiss

Posted on May 30, 2008

bettina says: he was diagnosed by bloodtest because vet told me he had a strong heart murmur. he also got his front claws infected. he refuses methim... but whenever i can get him to swallow a single dose, he reacts by becoming lethargic, hides all day except to pee or eat or drink some water. he becomes lethargic and his playful personality is gone. he is so changed that it's like he's had a lobotomy. i fear he hides from me because he doesn't want the pills. he rebels against my applying the flush to his paws as well and i am at wit's end. i fear i might be killing him sooner with these meds. he is frisky and spunky when not on meds. he seems as tho he doesn't trst me because i force feed him meds that make him feel sick and lrethargic.

Posted on December 14, 2007

Dori says: My cat has been meowing nonstop for severalyears, always hanging around my feet when I was making dinner, and scrawny looking. It was always my belief that she was just the type of cat who preferred small amts of food many times a day versus my other cats who were happy with canned in the AM, and dry in the PM. Then Sunday morning 12/9/07 she ate breakfast but didn't come around when I was making dinner. She literally stopped eating and she vomited alot which was clear. I figured she had a tummy ache. By Tuesday she hadn't changed so I took her to the vet. They too thought she had a stomach problem and gave me pepcid. No change Wed although she stopped vomiting. Thursday we had a snowstorm and by this time I am frantic. Got an appointment today (Fri 12/14) and they did blood work, and found ALT elevated 3 times the norm and high thyroid. I got the medication to start her on, I was wondering when is the usual time where she'll start eating? I don't think she can go on any longer without food. In spite of her illness, she is extremely feisty when you try to hold her down and force feed her. I've been trying to forcefeed her that nutrient-rich paste that comes in a tube but am unable to give her a sufficient amount even though I do this 3 or 4 times a day. She spits most of it out. I just want to know when you think she'll start coming around, i.e. how long on the drug before it starts taking effect? Thank you so much for being there.

Posted on January 5, 2008

Anne Dedecko says: My cat was diagnosed with hyperthyroid and is on Tapozole 2 times a day. We put it in the inside of his ear. Since he started treatment he has lost his meow. He used to be very vocal but now he kind of squeaks and is not very loud. He also does not purr anymore and he always did. He does not act like he used too either. We are concerned about him and would appreciate a little feed back. Thank so much. Anne

Posted on December 11, 2007

Jill says: My cat just turned 11 years old. She was a stray when she found me when she was only a few months old. She has always been Very skiddish around people that do not live in "her" house. We recently brought in another stray kitten which she is slowly adjusting to. The older cat has lung problems in which she coughs a lot. I took her to the vet to refill her prednisolone and find out why she has started peeing on our carpet again. At the vet, I found out that she lost 1 pound since the last time she was there just 2 months ago. She is now down to 7 pounds. She's never been a large cat, but she's nearing her lowest weight again. I told the vet she's been eating more than usual (now that I'm giving her famotidine to stop her from throwing up everything she eats...another problem that she's had since she was a kitten.) The doc ran blood tests, but said her T4 levels are fine, 1.87, so there's nothing wrong. I read online that in older cats, T4 levels can appear normal even if they do have this disease. Is there another explanation as to why she would have lost a whole pound in just 2 months when I know she is eating better than she has in a long time? Or should I get another opinion? I love my cat dearly, but all this medicine and doctor visits are getting Very expensive. I am willing to do whatever it takes to make her live a long healthy life. Am I wrong to question the doctor??

Posted on December 7, 2007

Aline says: My cat does have hypothyroid, and she has that about 3 or 4 years now. She is now 20 years old. At first, my partner and I didn't know she has it, so we started treating her with medication (oral). Currently, my cat is not getting any better. Her weight gets worse and worse as the time come. She is now weight a little over 4 pounds. Of course, she continues hungry every minute. She urines on carpet badly than normal. She normally urines in the litter box, but she started doing that on carpet since last year and got worse now. I personally got tired to clean that up because it smells terribly. My cat is also very very restless. She is just being very hungry. I feel like that mediciation is not helping her at all. Of course, my cat has been visiting vet once every 3 months. My partne and I have not see any improve for the last 3 years. We have talking about putter her to sleep even though vet told us she is not suffering. What is your suggestion? We do not want to be selfish with her life if she really needs to go even though it is hard for us to let her go. We really need to know for sure if she is suffering or not.

Posted on November 16, 2007

Chris Fugate says: There is no such thing as it being impossible to take your cat to the vet. Get a pet carrier!! Your cat definitely needs to get tested. She has all the signs. If left untreated, you know the consequences. Don't lose her now after all the years it took to bring her around. A daily dose of the medication is all you may need for her to live a full and happy life. My cat was just diagnosed within the last couple of months. After being on the medication, he is finally starting to gain some weight back and is getting back to being his old loving self. I have had him for 13 years and want him around at least a couple more. Please don't deny her of the chance to lead a long, healthy life.

Posted on October 9, 2007

Evaristo Miqueli says: My cat is a female and approximately 13 years old. She has the symptoms of hyperthyroidism, excessive weight loss, abundant hair loss, eats and drinks a lot, and meows excessively. Before these clear symptoms, she was playing frequently at night. My cat was a stray and was extremely skittish; she would avoid contact with other people. It took five years to be able to pet her. She has been an inside cat for approximately three years and only goes out for 10 or 15 minute to eat grass and meditate at night. She is spaded. My cat is very lovely with me and my wife but she still avoids contact with strangers. It is impossible to take her in a car to take her to a veterinarian's office so they could do the necessary tests to determine what is wrong with her. What can I do? Are there any tests that I could do at home? Are these symptoms sufficient to get her medical treatment. Any information you can give me would be appreciated. Thank you.

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