Hyperthyroidism Responds Well to Treatment

A super active kitty visited recently for a behavioral concern. At first glance you might take her for a playful kitten, jumping onto the counters and exam table, purring loudly, and rubbing against me. The fly in the ointment was her age: 13 years. She’d become incessantly active at home and had begun bullying the other cats when she should have been drinking iced tea on the shuffle board court. It didn’t add up.

This old biddy wasn’t really having fun. On further observation she was actually frantic as she panted nervously while bouncing around the room. History and exam revealed a 6.5 pound feline senior with a voracious appetite and a racing heart. All pets with behavioral signs need a medical evaluation, this girl more than most.

Stress is the enemy for cats, especially those whose hearts may fail. My hyperactive patient was good for her blood draw (my assistant was stellar). Lab results were fine with one notable exception. Her thyroid hormone level measured 17.2. The normal range for cats is 0.8-4.0. The obvious diagnosis: hyperthyroidism.

While the tumors responsible for sky high thyroid hormone levels in cats are benign this relatively common disease is serious business. Affected kitties, usually over age 8 years, typically lose weight in the face of a growing appetite, often with a resting heart rate around 200 or greater. Their accelerated metabolic rate drives-up blood pressure and overworks their hearts, leading to grossly thickened heart muscle walls and shrinking chambers. Heart failure and damaged, aging kidneys are a major killer if this disease isn’t treated early. My feline patient faced more than physical struggles. She lived in a constant state of agitation. Her quality of life was deteriorating.

There are good treatments. An oral medication or a prescription diet can make management simple for many affected cats. Permanent resolution is achieved with radioactive iodine treatment, now considered safer than surgical removal of the thyroid glands.

Senior cats need special care and monitoring even if they seem just fine at home. All kitties, regardless of age, should have an annual exam; those over age 8 also need a yearly blood profile. Cats are special. Don’t procrastinate. A lifetime of loyalty deserves the best of care.