Is your cat eating you out of home?

Does your cat have an insatiable appetite? I.e. they eat well but are constantly hungry and don’t gain weight. They may-be suffering from a hormonal disease called hyperthyroidism.

In this condition the thyroid gland produces an excessive amount of thyroid hormone resulting in a high, speeded up metabolism. Thyroid hormone affects nearly every body system so there are a range of clinical signs which include:

-Weight loss despite a normal or increased appetite
-Poor coat quality
-Vomiting and /or diarrhoea
-Increased thirst and urination
-Behavioural changes – some cats get very cranky
-High blood pressure which results in retinal detachment (blindness) and kidney damage
-Fast or difficult breathing due to heart disease (hypertrophic cardiomyopathy)

The condition is most common in middle aged to older cats (it is rare in dogs)

Diagnosis is by a simple blood and urine test.

There are different options for the treatment of hyperthyroidism and the treatment of individual patients depends on how well the kidneys and the heart are functioning. Left untreated the disease will progress and can cause heart failure, intractable diarrhoea, kidney failure, blindness and death.

Treatment options include
1) Medical
a) A “one off” treatment with radioactive iodine – the iodine is taken up by the thyroid gland and destroys the overactive tissue. Its highly successful and means daily medication can be avoided
b) Daily medication – usually in the form of tablets ( or a transdermal gel can be made) Regular blood and urine tests are needed to monitor the thyroid hormone level, to check for side effects to the medication as well as to check for unmasking pre-existing renal disease that doesn’t become apparent until the thyroid levels are normalised..
c) Diet – a diet made by hills called Y/D can regulate the thyroid level but it only works if it is fed exclusively. Also as many of these cats also have other health problems (kidney disease, heart disease) they benefit more from a diet that supports these organs rather than treats the hyperthyroidism. I.e. use medication to treat the thyroid problem and diet to treat the kidney/heart problem.
2) Surgical – Although surgery can be done to remove the thyroid gland , surgery does have significant risks (hypoparathyroidism , laryngeal paralysis) hence this option is not very popular in Australia

If treated, the prognosis for cats that don’t have underlying kidney disease is excellent. In cats with underlying kidney disease (due to hypertension of hyperthyroidism or unrelated to hyperthyroidism) the prognosis is less favourable.

If you think your cat might be showing some of the signs please arrange an appointment for a health check and blood