Common Cat Thyroid Issues

Cat thyroid problems are very common. Usually, however, feline thyroid problems are easy to treat with surgery or medication. Here are some of the common cat thyroid problems, and their symptoms.

The Role of the Feline Thyroid Gland

Your cat has a small gland in his neck called the thyroid. This gland releases hormones that regulate your cat's metabolism. When the thryoid stops functioning normally, your cat may begin to lose or gain weight inexplicably, as well as a host of other symptoms. The two most common cat thyroid issues are hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism.

Vets don't know for sure what causes feline thyroid dysfunction, though it seems to be connected to the level of iodine in the cat's diet.

Hyperthyroidism in Cats Explained

In a hyperthryoid cat, the thryoid gland begins to produce too much of the thyroid hormone. This speeds up your cat's metabolism. Symptoms of hyperthryoidism in cats include:

  • Weight loss, which can be quite dramatic
  • An increase in appetite
  • Vomiting and diarrhea, which may not occur in all cats

Cat hyperthyroidism puts strain on your cat's internal organs, and can lead to serious health issues. These include thyrotixic cardiomyopathy, a type of heart disease that occurs when your cat's heart beats at an increased rate for too long. A chronic increase in heart rate causes the walls of your cat's heart to thicken, leading to thyrotoxic cardiomyopathy.

Hypothyroidism in Cats Explained

Hypothyroidism occurs when your cat's thyroid gland produces too little of the thryoid hormone. This slows down your cat's metabolism. Hypothyroidism is less common than hyperthyroidism; it is sometimes seen in cats being treated for hyperthyroidism, and indicates an adjustment in medication is needed. Symptoms of hypothyroidism in cats include:

  • Lethargy
  • Weight gain without a change in appetite
  • Hair loss
  • Constipation
  • Dull coat and flaky skin
  • Behavioral changes
  • Frequent urination
  • Weakness
  • Vomiting

Hypothyroidism is most often seen in older cats.

Diagnosis and Treatment of Cat Thyroid Problems

Your vet will need to perform a blood test to determine whether your cat's symptoms indicate a thyroid problem. Your vet may also palpitate your cat's throat to check for enlargement of the thyroid gland. Some cats may exhibit lower levels of thyroid hormone in their blood, and less thyroid swelling, than others, but still be suffering from thyroid problems. Your vet may use nuclear medicine to examine the thyroid gland if this is the case.

Your vet will probably prescribe a daily medication to treat your cat's thyroid problems. This medication helps restore the levels of thyroid hormone in your cat's blood to normal. Your vet may also recommend an iodine rich diet, as some suspect that low levels of dietary iodine could be to blame for feline thyroid dysfunction. In some cases, surgery may be recommended to help correct the hormonal imbalance caused by feline thyroid problems.

In most cases, cat thyroid problems are easily treatable. Thryoid problems can put your cat's life in danger if he doesn't receive veterinary care, but most cats recover once they have been treated. While there's no reason your cat can't enjoy a full and healthy life with thryoid problems, treatment is usually lifelong.