A cat’s thyroid gland regulates the speed of all body processes; and hyperthyroidism in cats is a condition that causes them to burn off more energy than normal because their thyroid glands produce too much of a certain  hormone.  The condition most commonly occurs in older cats, but can happen when they are younger as well.  A variety of symptoms can occur from hypothyroidism because it can affect almost every organ. 

The most common signs of hyperthyroidism in cats include:

•    Weight loss
•    Increased appetite
•    Increased activity and restlessness
•    Aggressive or “cranky” behavior
•    Poor hair coat
•    Fast heart rate
•    Increased thirst
•    Increased urination
•    Periodic vomiting
•    Increased amount of stool or diarrhea
•    Occasional difficulty breathing
•    Occasional overall weakness
•    Occasional depression

Cats with hyperthyroidism can live normal lives.  Make sure you immediately take your cat to the veterinarian if you notice any of the symptoms above; however don’t assume that it is hyperthyroidism as each of the above symptoms could be indicative of other types of problems. 

Diagnosis

For a veterinarian to determine if your cat has hyperthyroidism, he/she may have to draw blood several times before the diagnosis is conclusive.  This is because thyroid levels can vary over time, so if it is only checked once the results may be misleading.  There is also a test called a T3 suppression test that can be used.  Other blood tests and a urinalysis should be administered to screen for abnormalities in other organs. 

Treatments

Hyperthyroidism in cats can cause complications if not treated, such as heart or kidney disease.  However, there are a few different ways that the disease can be treated so it shouldn’t be too difficult to control.  The cat may need to take lifelong oral anti-thyroid medications, which will reduce thyroid hormone levels and improve the symptoms, or the affected thyroid glands can be surgically removed or can be treated with radioactive iodine.  All of the treatments will essentially have the same effect.  The route you go for treatment all depends on the cat and the severity of the hyperthyroidism.  As always, treatments have the potential to produce side effects and complications so make sure your veterinarian knows your pet’s medical history, medications and so on. 

If you cat is diagnosed with hyperthyroidism, make sure he is kept comfortable, exercise him regularly and in the right doses, and provide him with a healthy diet.  There is no way to prevent hyperthyroidism, but you can prevent the disease from producing severe symptoms if detected early enough. 

It is important to note that often times hyperthyroidism is confused with hypothyroidism.  Hypothyroidism is the opposite of hyperthyroidism; it is when the thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough thyroid hormone, causing the animal to gain weight and have decreased energy.  Hypothyroidism occurs most commonly in dogs, whereas hyperthyroidism occurs more commonly in cats.

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