How to: Spot Hyperthyroidism in Senior Cats

Hyperthyroidism has become one of the leading afflictions among senior cats—learn what it is and how to spot common symptoms.

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Apr 11, 2023

Over the last fifty years, hyperthyroidism has become one of the leading afflictions among senior cats. Because of this, it’s important to understand what it is and how to spot common symptoms—in order to be proactive with your senior cat’s care.

As always, remember that a member of the Parker & Ace veterinary team is available to customize a treatment plan for your pet based upon their lifestyle and individual needs. Get in touch with us to make an appointment.

What is hyperthyroidism?

The thyroid is a hormone-producing gland that sits at the base of mammals’ necks. In animals with hyperthyroidism (also called “thyrotoxicosis”), the gland over-produces the  T3 and T4 hormones, resulting in a number of uncomfortable symptoms.

The condition is so common in cats that it is recommended all cats over 7 years old be screened by a veterinarian annually.

Why you should care?

Because the thyroid gland affects almost every organ in the body, untreated hyperthyroidism can be devastatingly widespread. 

In almost all cats with hyperthyroidism, a non-cancerous tumor called an “adenoma” causes the enlargement of the thyroid gland, which in turn ramps up hormone production.

What are the signs?

Typically subtle at first—but increases over time—symptoms of hyperthyroidism include:

  • Dramatic weight loss (even with normal or increased food intake)
  • Increased appetite and/or thirst
  • Increased urination
  • Diarrhea and/or vomiting
  • Hyperactivity
  • Greasy, unkempt-looking coat

Over time, the condition becomes much more severe: weight loss can cause stiffness to the joints, and blood pressure can increase, which can cause damage to several organs, including the heart. Eventually, the increased work by the heart can lead to heart failure if hyperthyroidism is not treated. 

Can hyperthyroidism be treated?

In most cases, your Parker & Ace vet team can do a quick diagnostic test (obtained by a simple blood screening) and check for elevated levels of thyroid hormones, particularly T4. 

If hyperthyroidism is diagnosed, your Parker & Ace veterinarian will work with you to develop the best treatment for your cat. 

Treatment options typically include medication, diet change, sometimes surgery, and in some cases, radioactive iodine therapy. Some treatments attempt to treat the thyroid tumor itself (which is the underlying cause of the disease); others simply stem the flow of thyroid hormones to the body, curtailing the harmful side effects. 

If spotted and treated early, cats with hyperthyroidism can live long, healthy lives.  If you suspect your cat has hyperthyroidism or you simply want to schedule a proactive diagnostic test, contact your Parker & Ace veterinary team today.