Big Appetite? Weight Loss?
What can I do with my cat’s incessant meowing? Myrtle is 18 years old. She’s able to hop up on the furniture. First thing in the morning, she starts around 6 a.m. and will keep it up. I’ve tried ignoring it, and other times shushing her to no avail. She will yowl, calling out for me and when I answer, she comes to find me. When I feed her it’s like a frenzied meow – hurry up and put the dish down. I have Feliway plugged in but she still is anxious.
Cats are not little people in furry suits but like some folks, they can be long talkers. A long-winded elderly kitty with a growing appetite may be hiding another important clue. If Myrtle is losing weight despite her frequent trips to the buffet her thyroid glands may be running amok. It’s time to count her heart rate.
With Myrtle standing on all fours reach under her chest with one hand between her elbows. Use your thumb on one side and your fingers on the other to feel gently for her heart. More than 160 beats per minute is suspicious, over 200 would be a red flag for hyperthyroidism. Too much thyroid hormone racing through Myrtle’s system could put her brain on hyper-drive. Her heart and kidneys can also suffer.
Hyperthyroidism is common in cats over age 10. Myrtle needs an exam and a blood and urine profile. Her thyroid glands may be enlarged but her lab results will be telling.
Hyperthyroidism in cats is quite manageable. Nearly all of them can be controlled with methimazole, an oral prescription medication that reduces excess thyroid hormone. Treatment with radioactive iodine necessitates a 3 day hospital stay but it can safely cure the disease.
If Myrtle’s exam and lab results are normal her ceaseless gabbing, restlessness, and confusion at the bingo hall may be signs of dementia. We can help with that too – and many cats improve – but only for a while. Start with a thorough physical evaluation. I’m betting old Myrtle has more good miles on the shuffle board court.
Each week Dr. Jeff Nichol makes a short video, blog, or a Facebook Live to help bring out the best in pets. Sign up at no charge at drjeffnichol.com. Dr. Nichol treats behavior disorders at the Veterinary Emergency & Specialty Centers in Albuquerque and Santa Fe (505-792-5131). You can post pet behavioral or physical questions at facebook.com/drjeffnichol or by US Post to 4000 Montgomery Blvd. NE, Albuq, NM 87109.