Hyperthyroidism: how to spot the signs

Is your cat showing signs of increased appetite and/or thirst, weight-loss, hyperactivity, overly-vocal, vomiting, diarrhoea, increased heart rate or poor coat condition?

While many of these could be linked to other conditions or even be innocent, they could be the first signs of increased metabolic rate, caused by hyperthyroidism.

Hyperthyroidism is diagnosed through a simple blood test and it can be managed with medication or surgery is an alternative route.

But if left untreated the condition could affect major organs such as the heart and liver and, in worst cases if left untreated, could be fatal.

The thyroid is made up of two glands located on either side of the wind pipe at the base of the cats neck. These glands produce thyroxine, a hormone which helps to regulate the metabolic rate.

In some cats, the thyroid becomes overactive and produces excessive amounts of thyroxine.

This is called hyperthyroidism and it speeds up the metabolism, which is where you may see a much increased appetite and weight loss in spite of it.

The treatment involves medication for life in tablet form, as well as regular blood tests to monitor the treatment and look for any changes that may necessitate new medication.

It will not be a permanent cure but medication is cheap and simple and there is no need for surgery. Unfortunately, it can cause some side effects, including poor appetite, vomiting or anaemia.

Alternatively surgery requires the removal of one or two glands, which will be a permanent cure if both glands removed and the procedure is fairly routine.

At the NCAC, where we are seeing more and more cats being diagnosed with hyperthyroidism, surgery is always the route taken as it is preferable from an adoption point of view - with no costs to new owners of medication and regular blood tests.

We start medication prior to surgery to bring their levels of thyroxine under control, as uncontrolled hyperthyroid cats are high risk anaesthetic cases. Once their levels are stable, they are  admitted for surgery and then tightly monitored by the team.

Once declared fully recovered by the veterinary surgeon they will be moved to the homing wings for viewing for adoption.

If you feel that your cat could be suffering from hyperthyroidism, please consult your vet.