Hyperthyroidism is an hormonal imbalance most frequently encountered in cats. This disease is found mainly in older cats . The average age of affected cats is 13 years , but we have seen cases from 7 year old cats. Veterinarians began to diagnose this illness back in the 80’s and since it is detected very frequently.
Typically, the hyperthyroid cat loses weight , despite him keeping an excellent appetite. However, unless the animal is only skin and bones, it is not the primary reason the owners consult their veterinarians. At least not in our clinic. Abnormal and frequent vomiting , chronic diarrhea and excessive thirst are the main reasons why people visit .
Hyperthyroidism is caused by a benign tumor of the thyroid gland . This tumor is called functional because it secretes an abnormal amount of thyroid hormone. It is important to realize that these tumors are almost always benign and represent a form of goiter rather than a form of cancer. Less than 3 % to 5 % of hyperthyroid cats have thyroid cancer tumors . Interestingly, cats living indoors are overrepresented in cases of hyperthyroidism . A recent survey by the home website Animal Health SmartBrief shows that approximately 60 % of cats in the United States are kept indoors . We must also consider that the life expectancy of a domestic cat ,kept indoors, is much longer.
Hyperthyroid cats often experience a decrease in their quality of life because of the loss of weight and muscle mass , vomiting or chronic diarrhea. Worse, hyperthyroidism can lead to heart failure, sudden blindness and even death of the animal in some cases.
Consequently, an early diagnosis and treatment is needed and several treatments are available . Several years ago , surgery (removal of the diseased gland ) was the most popular treatment. This procedure is not without risk , but has the advantage of being permanent. Back then, when no other permanent solution was available , the procedure was very popular with cat owners especially those with cats refractory to any oral medication.
Nowadays , treatment with radioactive iodine is available in some specialized veterinary institutions. A strict protocol is followed and only facilities specifically designed for radioactive treatments can conduct this procedure. The big advantage of this treatment is that like it’s surgery counterpart, it is permanent ( in more than 96-98 % of cases) .
Unfortunately, this treatment is not within the reach of every budget.
There is however a cheaper, oral solution ; methimazole . And in most cases , this drug, administered twice a day, has proven to be very effective. However , unlike the radioactive iodine treatment , it does not cure the disease . It controls it. Without his medication , the subject’s hyperthyroidism can return very quickly .
With a proper diagnostic combined with any of the aforementionned treatments , your hyperthyroid cat will live a perfectly normal life and can live as long as a normal healthy cat. So it is really worth the treatment.