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Signs and Symptoms of Hyperthyroidism in Cats

Updated on October 6, 2014
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Rhonda Jewel is a holistic pet care practitioner and owner of Holistic Pet Care, LLC.

Symptoms of Hyperthyroid in Cats

Hyperthyroidism in cats has become a HUGE health problem in cats in the USA. I find it very sad the Veterinarians can't give us more insight to how to deal with it naturally.

It is a common hormone disorder affecting our pet's energy, weight, hunger level and more. This disorder creates these and a number of other symptoms that are caused by the excess creation of thyroid hormones, which are produced via the thyroid. I did research on this disease and found out that there could be several causes. One being the prevalent use of PBDE's as a flame retardant in many products. Another being commercial canned and dry cat food. Whatever it is caused from, that is another subject altogether, but let's find out about it and what to do about it if your cat is showing the signs and symptoms.

Cats with overactive Thyroid

what is it about?

The thyroid gland consists of a small gland with two lobes, one on each side of the trachea (windpipe) in the neck. This gland creates a hormone known as thyroxine (T4). This hormone regulates a body's metabolic level and affects all systems in the body. The production of T4 is controlled by other hormones called the TSH or thyroid-stimulating hormones. TSH is produced by the pituitary gland, which is found at the base of the brain.

In this diagram:

1. healthy thyroid gland

2 & 3. are the parathyroid glands

4. Enlarged effected gland- hyperthyroidism

Hyperthyroid Feline

What causes it?

If the thyroid makes extra amounts of the hormone T4, the condition is called hyperthyroidism.

The most familiar cause of the increase of T4 is a non-cancerous increase in the number of cells in the thyroid gland. Groups of the irregular cells form tiny nodules on the thyroid and are labeled adenomas.

Multiple adenomas can form in a lobe, and in roughly 65% of the circumstances, both lobes are affected. Only 2% of hyperthyroid cells in cats are malignant or cancerous.

The incidence of hyperthyroidism in cats has increased remarkably in the last 25 years. The reason for this is unknown, but is probably due to multiple factors. The ingredients of the canned and dry foods being fed, immune system factors, and environmental influences such as the PBDE's that are in the house in many products, carpets etc., the cats ingest the substance in both foods and by licking their fur. All this and more may be involved in the cause. No one is entirely sure.

The average age for developing the disorder is under 13 years of age. Cats that develop this disorder before eight years of age represent only five percent of the group. There is not a sex or breed preference to the disorder.

Hyperthyroid in Cats Symptoms

The signs & symptoms of hyperthyroidism are extensive & inconsistent

The following are the most common symptoms of feline hyperthyroidism:

-Weight loss for no apparent reason

-Increased appetite and water drinking

-Vomiting and diarrhea

-Increased urination

-Behavioral changes

-increased vocalization


-Hair loss

-Body tremors

-Panting or heavy breathing

Hyperthyroidism in Cats Prognosis

Several of the symptoms of hyperthyroidism can also be attributed to other diseases such as kidney failure, diabetes, heart disease, mellitus, or liver disease. Because of this, further tests are performed to determine if other disorders are present. Treatment can then be planned effectively depending on the test results. Cats with hyperthyroidism usually have an increase of red blood cells, liver enzymes, BUN, and creatinine. Other tests that can be used to confirm a hyperthyroidism diagnosis include a T3 suppression blood test, T4 level blood test, thyroid uptake scan, ultrasound, and a thyrotropin stimulation blood test.

In normal cats, the thyroid is not easily felt. However, in cats with hyperthyroidism, the thyroid gland is enlarged and can be felt. In some cases, the thyroid gland is so large that it drops into the chest cavity and can't be manipulated. Ectopic thyroid is a condition in which the thyroid gland tissue has moved away from the thyroid and is found in areas around the chest and neck.

Hyperthyroidism Cats Untreated - What to expect?

Do more Holistic Pet Care

The most common side effects of feline hyperthyroidism are high blood pressure, heart murmurs, and rapid heart rates. If left untreated, cats usually develop hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a heart condition that causes the thickening of heart muscles. This condition can be fatal.

There are natural treatments, a change of diet and many alternative remedies to save your purring puss from an early grave. Go Holistic!!

See more here about holistic pet care. Visit Holistic pet care products!

Allopathic Treatment

There are presently three treatments used by conventional veterinary medicine for hyperthyroidism in cats:

Medication - Methimazole is a readily available, inexpensive short-term pill medication for the treatment of hyperthyroidism in cats. This treatment is the most common because it requires no surgery or hospitalization. Most of the time, cats are on this medication their entire life, and regular blood tests are necessary. Methimazole is sometimes given before radiation therapy to help stabilize a cat. This medication is not a cure, and the thyroid gland cells will continue to grow. If the cat will not take this medication in pill form, there is a gel available that is placed in the ear for absorption.

Surgery - This can be a cure for feline hyperthyroidism as long as all the abnormal tissue can be removed. There is a short hospitalization stay, and the surgery will require anesthesia. If all the abnormal tissue is removed, there is no longer a need for medication. The surgery can cause damage to the parathyroid gland and nerves in the area. The parathyroid gland is located on the backside of the thyroid gland, and its purpose is to maintain the body's calcium level. Surgery is impossible if the thyroid gland has dropped into the chest cavity, because it is no longer accessible.

Radioactive iodine - This treatment alternative requires no sedation or surgery. Abnormal thyroid gland tissue can be treated, and there is no damage to healthy organs or tissue. Usually, normal thyroidal levels and functions return within 30 days of the treatment. This treatment can be performed on thyroid glands that have dropped into the chest cavity or if the cells are cancerous. Hospitalization for a prolonged period is required, and treatment sometimes has to be repeated. Radioactive iodine treatment is the most expensive of the treatments available for feline hypothyroidism.

Of the three treatments, radioactive iodine treatment is the favored conventional treatment for felines with both thyroid gland lobes affected and felines with thyroid matter located in hard-to-reach areas. The results of radioactive therapy are positive, and the animal is exposed to minimal risk.

To sum up the treatments the Vet can offer - here is Dr Sarah

What can you do if your cat has been diagnosed and does have hyperthyroidism? What are the signs and symptoms? In this short clip Dr. Sarah reviews the signs of hyperthyroidism and differing treatments available.

Natural Treatment for Hyperthyroidism in Cats

1. Change of Diet, preferable raw

2. Herbs and Homeopathy - all natural products such as Thyroid Support Gold

3. Cat vitamins including CoQ-10 and l-carnitine.

4. Acupuncture and massage therapy for pets

5. Colloidal Silver for pets

Clinical Trial Treatment

A fourth treatment is in the investigation phase, and it is called chemical ablation. This treatment consists of an ultrasound scan being used to locate the thyroid gland, which is injected with medicated chemicals or exposed to radiofrequency heat to destroy the abnormal cells. This treatment requires anesthesia but only takes 15 minutes or less to complete.

These treatments have their disadvantages and advantages depending on a cat's age and the stage of its disease. It is important to talk to one's veterinarian about all options available for the cat.

Feline hyperthyroidism can be treated successfully, and most cats live normal, healthy lives. It is crucial, however, to seek the help of a medical professional right way if any of the symptoms described in this article appear in one's pet cat. The key to success is early detection.

It is Treatable!

If your cat has it, there are many decisions you must make about how to treat this disease, but remember most procedures are dangerous for your much loved kitty.

There are surgical options, radioactive treatments and chemotherapy, however, the side effects of any one of these treatments can be devastating. So please consider the natural alternatives as well.


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