Hyperthyroidism is a disease where the thyroid gland is producing an excessive amount of thyroid hormone. This creates a large imbalance in the endocrine system and the pet can suffer from a long list of symptoms because of the extra hormone. Hyperthyroidism is almost exclusively found in mature and senior cats, the average age of onset is 12 to 13 years of age.
Some of the common symptoms of hyperthyroidism include; weight loss, increased heart rate, vocalization, increased apatite, increase energy, increased shedding, increased urination and panting. A veterinarian cannot diagnose hyperthyroidism on symptoms alone though. The only reliable way to diagnose this disease is with a blood test the measures the amount of thyroid hormone that is present in the blood. A wellness blood panel may be recommended to make sure there are no other diseases effecting the pet.
If a pet has been diagnosed, there are a few treatment options available. The first option is medication. There is a medication that will suppress the thyroid gland from over-producing the thyroid hormone. This seems like a simple fix and is usually the most common solution. The medication, however, is lifelong. So, if it is difficult to administer medications to the diagnosed pet, it may not be the most practical option. The second option is surgery. The thyroid glands can be surgically removed and this fixes the problem. This is sometimes not possible if the pet is not healthy enough to undergo a surgical procedure. The third option is a fairly new treatment called radioactive iodine therapy. This option is very effective but often the most expensive one and requires the pet to stay in the hospital for several days.
Once a treatment plan is selected and begun, veterinarians will still want the thyroid hormone level checked regularly to make sure the disease is under control. Although this is a disease that can cause serious problems if left untreated, it is possible for pets to live many more happy years of their life once it is managed properly.
Written by Jordan Christensen