Is your cat looking old, scruffy and thin?

They may have Feline Hyperthyroidism

What is hyperthyroidism?

Hyperthyroidism is a common condition of older cats.  The reason why the disease starts is poorly understood, but results in excessive production of thyroid hormone.  Thyroid hormone is responsible for maintaining metabolism.  If excessive quantities of thyroid hormone are present, the metabolism goes into fast forward.  This causes increased calorie consumption so weight loss is common.  More serious effects as a result of high thyroid hormone include heart disease, liver disease and elevated blood pressure, leading to a multitude of further complications.

What are the symptoms of hyperthyroidism?

There are numerous symptoms that may be present with hyperthyroidism, and any combination can occur in a particular cat.  These include:

  • Weight loss

  • Vomiting

  • Diarrhoea

  • Heat intolerance (avoid rather than seeking warm locations)

  • Irritability/aggressive behaviour

  • Increased thirst/urination

  • Exercise intolerance (especially secondary to concurrent heart disease)

  • Scruffy, broken coat


     These symptoms are not specific for thyroid disease, and can occur with other conditions.

How do I test for Hyperthyroidism?

Basic blood screening profiles performed for older cats will detect high thyroid levels as well as some of the concurrent issues that can occur as a result of the thyroid disease.

Is thyroid disease treatable?

Thyroid disease in older cats is very treatable.  There are a few treatment options available for this disease.  Generally we recommend either life-long medication or Radioactive Iodine treatment (which is curative for most cats).  Although surgery has been used in the past, it is no longer considered the best option.  Treatment recommendations will be tailored to the individual patient, considering any other concurrent diseases that may be present.

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