Understanding The Hyperthyroid Cat
Your veterinarian has just diagnosed your cat as having a thyroid tumor. This explains the hyperactive behavior that you’ve noticed in your cat these past few weeks. Here is how the thyroid tumor has affected your cat, the treatment options, and what you can do to help your cat have a comfortable life at home with this disease.
The Impact of the Tumor on the Thyroid
This is a common occurrence in older cats. What triggers the development of the tumor is unknown, but genetics and environmental conditions appear to be two factors increasing the risk.
The tumor causes the thyroid to produce increased amounts of the thyroid hormone. This hormone controls your cat’s metabolism. More of the thyroid hormone in the system increases their metabolism. This is called hyperthyroidism and you’ve likely seen some of the symptoms, such as:
- increased appetite and thirst
- frequent urination
- weight loss
- fast breathing
- poor fur condition
The hyperactive behaviors put stress on the immune system and internal organs. If left untreated, the heart and other organs are damaged from the increased metabolism, which shortens the cat’s life.
Treatment Options for a Thyroid Tumor
Your veterinarian did a physical examination and blood tests to detect the thyroid tumor. Thyroid tumors grow slowly, so your vet may suggest a wait-and-see approach. Regular blood tests will monitor the tumor’s progress. When the hormone production makes life uncomfortable for your cat, there are two commonly used options for treatment.
Medication – A drug called methimazole can be given to your cat daily to control the production of thyroid hormone. The tumor is unaffected but its impact on the thyroid is reduced. Your vet will increase the dose of the medication until blood tests show that the thyroid hormone level in your cat is within an acceptable range. You’ll then need to give your cat the medication daily for the rest of their life. This medication is inexpensive, but your cat may need the drug daily for years.
Radiation – This is an expensive option, but it normally takes only one treatment to get rid of the tumor and cure the condition. Radioactive iodine is injected into your cat’s bloodstream. The thyroid gland absorbs the iodine and the radioactive material kills the tumor cells. Once the tumor has been destroyed, the thyroid resumes normal levels of thyroid production. This treatment is done in a special facility with staff trained to handle radioactive substances.
Taking Care of the Hyperthyroid Cat
If you choose radiation treatment for your cat, they will return to their normal activity levels soon after treatment. If your cat goes on the medication to control thyroid levels, they will continue to exhibit some hyperthyroid behaviors. A few ways that you can help them have a comfortable life include:
- Keep extra food and water bowls available to your cat.
- Put additional litter boxes where it’s convenient for your cat.
- Provide a quiet place for your cat to get away from the activity in the house.
- Brush your cat daily to help keep their fur soft and free of mats.
If you see an increase in activity in your cat when they are on the medication, take your cat in for a blood test. The dosage of the medication may need to be adjusted to make your cat more comfortable. Contact a veterinarian near you for more information.