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Vet Talk – Hyperthyroidism in Cats

Posted May 17, 2016


Through years of experience, I have found that when a senior cat comes into my veterinarian practice it is usually due to hyperthyroidism, kidney disease, or diabetes. These diseases are so prevalent in older cats that I always rule these out first. In today’s vet talk, I’ll be focusing on hyperthyroidism in cats—symptoms to look out for, diagnostic tests, supplements, and treatments.

Hyperthyroidism is commonly diagnosed in older kitties. It causes an over production of the thyroid hormone causing a multitude of problems. The thyroid hormone regulates the basic metabolic rate. Too much of it is like drinking too much coffee—it speeds up every reaction in the body. Hyperthyroidism in cats is typically the result of a benign thyroid tumor. Since cells are normal, they continue to produce the thyroid hormones, resulting in a high level of those hormones in the blood.

The most common signs of hyperthyroidism in cats include:

  • Increased appetite
  • Weight loss in spite of excessive eating
  • Anxiety or hyper behavior
  • Howling at night
  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Elevated liver enzymes

Not all cats will have these symptoms. In fact about 20% of cats will be sluggish and depressed instead of hyperactive with decreased appetite. Left untreated, hyperthyroidism can lead to heart problems and a decreased immune system.

Diagnosing hyperthyroidism requires a complete blood work check including T4 testing. I recommend blood testing and senior exams every six months in any cat over the age of eight. Chronic kidney disease can be a complicating factor in treating hyperthyroidism, so complete blood work is necessary to diagnose, and treat in the most effective way.

There are several presumptive and investigated reasons older cats develop hyperthyroidism, including diet and environmental causes. Canned food with BPA (found in the linings of cans) and excessive iodine in food has been targeted for possible nutritional reasons for hyperthyroidism. Environmental reasons include chemicals emitted by carpets, sofas, chairs, mattresses and tv’s and computers called PBDE’s, all of which are a large part of an indoor cat’s life. However, hyperthyroidism is also found in outdoor cats eating dry food. This ads to theories that there is a genetic disposition to hyperthyroidism as well.

Treatment of hyperthyroidism is multifactorial. Immune support, heart support and endocrine support is targeted. Western medications include methimazole and sometimes heart medication to slow the heart down. Radioactive iodine therapy is another treatment available that completely ablates the thyroid gland and no longer makes it necessary to treat an overactive gland.

NHV offers natural supplements that may help to support the thyroid function and cardiovascular function of you cat. These complimentary products can be used in conjunction with western medications. These are:

NHV Resthyro, which contains herbs like bugleweed and lemon balm, that help inhibit thyroid-stimulating hormones, while a balance within the body is maintained using herbs like eluethero.

NHV Turmeric, which is a superherb and helps with liver function and heart and circulatory function. NHV Turmeric contains black pepper, which increases the bioavailability of turmeric.

NHV Hearty Heart may help with overall heart function and blood pressure, which contain herbs like motherwort and hops that help to strengthen a weakened heart.

If chronic kidney disease is a complicating factor in your cat’s hyperthyroidism, you may want to try NHV Tripsy. NHV Tripsy contains herbs like stone root, parsley piert, and gravel root which help support and strengthen the kidneys.

If your cat has hyperthyroidism and you would like a second, holistic veterinary opinion, please book a consultation with me through NHV.

Dr. Hillary Cook is a graduate of Virginia Maryland Regional Veterinary Medical school. She has been practicing holistic and integrative veterinary medicine for fifteen years. She certified in Veterinary acupuncture and is fully qualified in Western and Chinese herbalism. She is the owner of Animal Wellness Center, an integrative veterinary clinic in Crozet, VA. She enjoys spending time with her husband, two children, and a menagerie of pets including dogs, cats and chickens. When time allows, you can find her in the garden or on the tennis court!

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