It occurs when the thyroid glands, located in your cat’s neck, stop “listening” to the normal regulatory control of the pituitary gland in the brain and begin to produce excess thyroid hormone.
Thyroid hormone helps regulate metabolism and control normal bodily processes. Think of it as an engine’s tachometer gauge: in simple terms, it controls how fast or slow the body functions. When a cat’s thyroid glands become overactive and produce too much thyroid hormone, it leads to an increase in the body’s metabolism.
In automotive terms, it’s like pushing the accelerator pedal to the floor, moving the engine’s tachometer gauge past the red line – and into trouble!
Dangers of Hyperthyroidism
While this may sound like a great way to shed a few extra pounds if your cat is overweight, the impact of hyperthyroidism on our cat friends can be dangerous. Over a period of months, the overproduction of thyroid hormone can have a negative impact on the heart, kidneys, and other organs.
Cause of Hyperthyroidism
The exact cause of hyperthyroidism is not known. This disease typically affects cats aged 10 years or older, and is one of the important reasons why we recommend regular laboratory testing in older cats.
Symptoms of Hyperthyroidism
The most common symptoms of hyperthyroidism are weight loss despite increased appetite. Additionally, some cats may become restless, “talk” more, look unkempt, vomit, drink more, urinate more, become cranky, and breathe more rapidly. Sometimes, however, cats do not exhibit these symptoms, even though their internal organs are undergoing damage. We pick up these “silent” cases through routine laboratory testing and physical exam. Left untreated, cats become extremely thin and typically die of heart failure caused by the hyperthyroidism.
If your cat is diagnosed with hyperthyroidism, we’ll discuss several treatment options with you, including a brand new dietary option that doesn’t require medication.
While we don’t know yet why older cats frequently develop hyperthyroidism or how to prevent it, we can effectively treat – and even cure – the disease, allowing your dear kitty friend to live a long and healthy life.