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Hyperthyroidism in cats: symptoms, causes and diagnosis

Feline hyperthyroidism is a disease that affects cats. Until recently, little was known about the disease, and it was only diagnosed when it was already very developed. There was also very little knowledge on the cure of hyperthyroidism.  However, thanks to research carried out in recent years, and the increased knowledge surrounding feline medicine, we now know that the disease is much more common than previously believed and that if an early diagnosis is made, it is very easy to control and treat. 

In this regard, it is essential that cat owners are aware of the need to take their cats to the vet at least once a year for a complete medical examination. In the case of older cats (seven or eight years and older), this should be done every six months.

Hyperthyroidism is when the thyroid glands produce an increased amount of hormones. The glands are located in the cervical region.  These hormones play a very important role in metabolic regulation, meaning an imbalance in their production can lead to significant alterations in the organ’s functions. This can cause various symptoms, depending on the severity of the disease:

  • Ongoing weight loss
  • Hyperactivity
  • Increased appetite and thirst
  • Increased urination
  • Aggression
  • And others such as vomiting, diarrhea and a visibly poor coat.

If the disease is not yet fully advanced, these symptoms may only appear subtly. This highlights the importance of going to the vet to allow for as early detection as possible.

Hyperthyroidism has several causes, such as benign (adenomas) or malignant (adenocarcinomas) tumors in the thyroid. These are often associated with diet-related factors or exposure to certain environmental pollutants.  With most cases, diagnosis is usually straightforward. Vets will perform blood tests as well as a physical examination of the cat. Sometimes, they may wish to perform more tests using imaging techniques (such as an ultrasound or an MRI), depending on the severity of the case. 

Treatment may vary depending on the type of disease and usually consists of the administration of medication, a special diet, surgery or administration of radioactive iodine. 

If diagnosed early on, the disease can be easy to control. This will help to lengthen our cat’s life expectancy and improve their quality of life. It is, therefore, essential to take them to the vet frequently.


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