Thyroid problems in cats, such as hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism, are common hormonal disorders that can significantly impact their health and quality of life.

What is hypothyroidism in cats?

Hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland produces insufficient thyroid hormone, slowing down the body’s metabolic processes. While relatively rare in cats compared to dogs, it can still occur and requires prompt attention.

Here are some key points pet owners should be aware of:

  • Weight gain despite a decrease in appetite
  • Lethargy and decreased activity levels
  • Cold intolerance
  • Constipation
  • Dull, dry coat and excessive shedding
  • Changes in behaviour, such as increased irritability or depression

How is hypothyroidism in cats treated?

Synthetic thyroid hormone supplementation is the primary treatment for hypothyroidism in cats. Veterinarians typically prescribe oral medication, such as levothyroxine, to replace the deficient thyroid hormone.

Regular monitoring of thyroid hormone levels through blood tests is essential to adjust medication dosage as needed and ensure optimal thyroid function.

Dietary adjustments, such as providing a balanced diet rich in essential nutrients, may also be recommended to support thyroid health.

What is hyperthyroidism in cats?

Hyperthyroidism, on the other hand, is a condition characterized by excessive production of thyroid hormone, leading to an accelerated metabolic rate. It is the most common hormonal disorder diagnosed in older cats.

Here’s what you need to know for cats with hyperthyroidism:

  • Weight loss despite increased appetite
  • Hyperactivity and restlessness
  • Excessive thirst and urination
  • Vomiting and diarrhoea
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat
  • Poor coat condition

How is hyperthyroidism in cats treated?

In managing feline hyperthyroidism, methimazole is a commonly prescribed medication that suppresses the overproduction of thyroid hormones. It’s essential to monitor a cat’s thyroid levels and be on the lookout for potential side effects when using this medication.

Another treatment option is radioactive iodine therapy, which involves a single injection of radioactive iodine. This method selectively destroys abnormal thyroid tissue while leaving healthy tissue unharmed. Offering a potentially curative approach, this therapy requires access to specialised facilities and careful monitoring.

Is surgical thyroidectomy an option?

Surgical thyroidectomy, the removal of the thyroid gland, is also a consideration in some cases. Although it presents risks and is less frequently chosen compared to other treatments, it remains a viable option for certain situations.

If you think your cat’s thyroid glands might be affected by these hormonal disorders, speak to your vet. If you are out of hours, contact your local Vets Now clinic, or you can talk to one of our vets through our Video Vets Now telehealth service.