Cat Hyperthyroidism-A Brief Introduction By Catharine Wells
As cat owners, there's nothing more distressing than finding out that
your feline friend is sick. In the case of a disorder such as feline
hyperthyroidism, the consequences can be severe and have the potential
to rob your pet of its health, comfort, and even its life. However,
when armed with some basic knowledge, you'll be better able to help
your cat through its illness and to hopefully catch the problem early
on so you can ease your pet's suffering and improve its health with
early treatment and intervention.
The Feline Thyroid Gland
thyroid is a double-lobed gland located in the cat's neck, wrapped
around its trachea. Consisting of spherical follicles, this gland is
responsible for secreting the two thyroid hormones -- thyroxine (T4)
and triiodothyronine (T3). These two iodine-containing hormones play a
significant role in a number of physiological functions and have an
effect on every cell in the feline body. In particular, T4 helps to
regulate the cat's metabolic rate, or the rate at which the cat's cells
When a cat's thyroid
does not function properly and produces too much of the T4 hormone, the
cat develops the endocrine disorder known as hyperthyroidism. This
disorder is most common in middle-aged and elderly cats and affects
male and female cats equally. Since thyroid hormones have an effect on
every part of the feline physiological system, hyperthyroidism can also
affect every organ. As a result, this endocrine disorder can have
numerous negative effects on a feline patient and can quickly become
extremely dangerous if left untreated.
Consequences of Hyperthyroidism
the thyroxine hormone controls the metabolic rate of a cat's body,
elevated levels of this hormone result in a higher rate of metabolic
function. This causes an increase in blood pressure as well as an
increased heart rate. This excessive stress upon the feline heart can
eventually cause it to expand in size. Known as myocardial hypertrophy,
this heart condition causes the organ to wear out more quickly than a
normal heart and will eventually lead to heart failure if the
myocardial hypertrophy and hyperthyroidism continue to go untreated.
Symptoms and Warning Signs
fact that cat hyperthyroidism affects every cell in a feline's body and
increases the animal's metabolic rate explains the nature and high
number of different symptoms that this disorder can give rise to. While
not all feline patients will experience the exact same set of symptoms,
some of the most common warning signs of hyperthyroidism include a
significantly increased appetite accompanied by weight loss, both of
which directly result from the elevated metabolic rate. Hyperactivity,
irritability, rapid breathing, and a rapid heart rate are also
frequently displayed by cats suffering from this thyroid condition.
there are likely many different factors that can contribute to the
development of hyperthyroidism in a particular cat, this thyroid
condition is caused by the presence of a tumour on the thyroid gland.
Even though these tumours are often benign, they still trigger the
overproduction of thyroid hormones. When it comes to possible
contributing factors for cat hyperthyroidism, there is still much that
is not understood. However, it's believed that factors such as age,
environment, and diet could be related to the development of thyroid
tumours which lead to feline hyperthyroidism. Diagnosis
When hyperthyroidism is suspected in a feline patient,
a thorough physical examination will be conducted so that the
veterinarian can check for clinical signs such as enlarged glands, high
blood pressure, and an elevated heart rate. Numerous blood tests can
also provide important information on the condition of different organs
and physiological systems. Thyroid tests will also likely be conducted
in order to measure the levels of thyroid hormones in the cat's body.
In certain cases, imaging tools such as ultrasound will also be used to
examine the physical structure of the thyroid gland and to check for
any physical abnormalities such as tumours.
a diagnosis of cat hyperthyroidism has been made, there are a variety
of different treatment methods available. Traditional forms of
treatment include surgery, radiation, and medication. A holistic health
care approach will also be beneficial in some cases, involving the use
of natural supplements and homoeopathic remedies to balance hormones
and to regulate thyroid activity. Natural supplements are also
beneficial in the sense that they can reduce uncomfortable symptoms and
boost a cat's overall health. Whether your particular cat will benefit
the most from a holistic health care approach or traditional treatment
methods is something that will depend upon your individual pet's
circumstances and will need to be determined by a veterinarian. For
some feline patients, the best approach will involve a combination of
both traditional and holistic treatments. In any event, it's always
important to ensure that your feline friend receives treatment as soon
as possible so that severe and potentially fatal consequences of this
endocrine disorder can be avoided.
The care that you give your cat, the quality of the food that your cat
eats the kind of lifestyle that your cat lives. All these things play
their part in the chances of your cat enjoying a long life.
Veterinary medicine has made some great advances in recent years, and
this is one of the reasons the average age of domestic cats is
increasing. A well cared for cat that is kept indoors and is fed a good
nutritional diet, would be expected to live for about 15 years.
Some cats do live to 20 plus years and there are records of a few cats
reaching over 30 years. These sort of ages for a cat are very much the
The genetic make up of a cat can be a factor in determining its life
span. Some breeds of cat appear to be more resilient than others.
Selective breeding can have the effect that some breeds are genetically
prone to ailments which shorten their life expectancy. Mixed breeds,
the typical moggie or mouser, is usually more vigorous in its genetic
make up and may expect to live slightly longer than a pure breed cat.
Cats that are kept strictly as indoor only cats stand a better chance
of living to a ripe old age than cats that are allowed outside. The
reasons for this are many. Outdoor cats face danger from traffic, from
being attacked by other cats or by other animals. They run increased
risk of being accidentally poisoned by
pesticides or deliberately poisoned by malicious humans. Outdoor cats
are also at risk from catching feline diseases particularly from the
feral cat population.
The are many things to consider in deciding to keep your cat as an
indoor only cat or an outdoor-indoor cat, life expectancy is only one
Overfeeding your cat is a good way to shorten its life. An overfed cat
stands more chance of health problems than a cat that is weight
controlled. Diabetes, arthritis, breathing difficulties, heart and
liver disease can all result as a consequence of overfeeding. All of
these conditions may mean your little pet not living a long and healthy
feline life. Your veterinarian can advise on the best diet for your
Exercise too, is important for your cat's health and in maintaining its
weight. Healthy cats mostly exercise themselves of course, but the
playtime you enjoy with your cat can contribute to keeping kitty
healthy. Elderly cats particularly benefit from gentle play-exercise.
Regular visits to the vets for routine checks will give your cat the
best chance to live a long life, and to live that life healthily. Many
life shortening problems can be tackled successfully if detected early.
Neutered or spayed cats often enjoy a slightly longer life than
unaltered felines. This is particularly so for male cats as an
unaltered male will often receive injuries defending his territory.
There are many other good reasons for spaying and neutering of course,
aside from extending the life of your cat.