All mammals have a thyroid gland that plays a vital role in the body. It manufactures and distributes hormones that govern the body’s metabolic rate. This is the speed at which it breaks down and digests food. The thyroid gland and the hormones it produces also play critical roles in the circulatory, muscular, and digestive systems. Furthermore, a healthy thyroid gland is essential for brain development and bone maintenance.

Hyperthyroidism is the term used to describe an overactive thyroid gland. It is quite common in felines. However, with an accurate diagnosis and the correct treatment, hyperthyroidism will not hinder your cat’s quality of life.

A closer look at a cat’s thyroid gland

A cat has two thyroid glands, unlike its human counterparts. These glands are in its neck on either side of the windpipe. Despite their vital importance in regulating processes in your cat’s body, these glands are tiny. They play a critical role in a cat’s metabolic functioning.

Felines run into medical problems if the thyroid gland swells and becomes enlarged. Many feline owners opt for an organic cat thyroid supplement that keeps the thyroid gland healthy and functioning optimally. A swollen thyroid gland leads to an overproduction of thyroid hormones, which could cause feline health challenges as these substances affect many other organs’ functioning. Many brands, the likes of which are Pet Wellbeing, Scruffy Paws Nutrition, and Only Natural Pet, offer a large variety of cat supplements, including thyroid supplements, that are of high-quality and affordable at the same time. 

What causes hyperthyroidism in cats?

Advanced age is a common cause of feline hyperthyroidism. The condition becomes common in cats as they approach 13 years of age. Breed is not much of an issue as this problem occurs in all felines, although Siamese, Persian, and Himalayan cats appear less likely to experience it.

A genetic predisposition to hyperthyroidism occurs when one of the cat’s parents also had this condition. Unless you know your cat’s parents’ health history, it is unlikely that you would have this information at your disposal.

A tumor typically causes a thyroid gland’s enlargement. In most instances, this growth is benign and noncancerous. However, there is a chance that the tumor is cancerous. If you detect swelling around your cat’s thyroid gland, consult a veterinarian to determine if a tumor is present and its potential effects on your cat’s life. If a tumor is noncancerous, vets are disinclined to interfere with it surgically. However, if there is potential for cancer, a vet will explore different treatment options, including an operation.

Symptoms of hyperthyroidism

Since your kitty does not have the vocabulary to tell you what is wrong, you need to observe its behavior and demeanor, looking for signs and symptoms of a problem. The signs discussed below do not necessarily indicate feline hyperthyroidism as they could be symptoms of other conditions.

Potential indicators of hyperthyroidism include behavioral changes, such as aggression, depression, restlessness, hyperactivity, or increased lethargy. A cat may appear weaker than usual and experience breathing difficulties. Diarrhea and vomiting are common as hyperthyroidism interferes with a cat’s digestive system. 

A cat might also display changes in appetite. This could include eating more than usual but losing weight and insatiable thirst. A feline will also start urinating more frequently, often breaking its habit of using a litter box. Finally, the cat’s outward appearance may change, with the fur becoming matted or oily.

Diagnosing feline hyperthyroidism

If you suspect your cat may have hyperthyroidism, visit a vet without delay. A vet starts with a thorough physical exam, focusing on the thyroid area to look for gland enlargement. They will also ask you questions about your cat’s recent health, behavior, appearance, eating patterns, and litterbox habits. Explain what you have observed, as this helps the vet make an accurate diagnosis.

If a veterinarian suspects feline hyperthyroidism, they will perform additional tests of the blood and urine. Blood tests measure thyroid hormone levels. If they are in excess of what is normal, it indicates a potential problem. A urine test rules out other infections and conditions, such as diabetes. A vet will also check the cat’s heart and blood pressure as hyperthyroidism can lead to cardiac disease and hypertension (high blood pressure).

Treatment of feline hyperthyroidism

Medication is a vet’s first course of action. Anti-thyroid glands reduce hormone production. Fortunately, it is not overly expensive as a cat will need to take this medicine for the rest of its life. Side effects of anti-thyroid medication include fever, lethargy, weight loss, and facial itching. Vomiting could also indicate that a cat’s body cannot tolerate the medicine.

Radioactive iodine therapy is an expensive, specialized procedure. An injection of iodine into a cat’s bloodstream goes to the thyroid and destroys any abnormal tissue. No damage to any other feline tissue will occur. While it is effective, radioactive iodine therapy involves a hospital stay and isolation for a period afterward.

If no other interventions are possible, your vet might elect to remove your kitty’s thyroid. It is a practical, long-term solution and does not necessitate chronic medication.

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