Posts Tagged ‘metabolism’

There is more than one reason why a cat may lose weight in spite of a healthy or larger-than-normal appetite.

Today, we will focus on a condition called hyperthyroidism, which can cause cats to become emaciated even as they beg for more food.

What is hyperthyroidism?
The thyroid gland, located in your cat’s neck, uses dietary iodine to make thyroid hormones that help regulate important body functions, including:

  • Metabolism
  • Body temperature
  • Blood pressure
  • Heart rate
  • Gastrointestinal function

When a cat has hyperthyroidism, its thyroid gland is enlarged and it produces excessive amounts of thyroid hormone.

Illustration from Hill's Pet Nutrition pamphlet on Feline Thyroid Health.

Illustration from Hill’s Pet Nutrition pamphlet on Feline Thyroid Health.

Hyperthyroidism is most often diagnosed in cats older than 10 years. Untreated hyperthyroidism can have serious — even fatal — effects on organs such as the heart and kidneys.

What are the symptoms of hyperthyroidism?

  • Weight loss
  • Increased appetite
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Increased thirst
  • Poor skin and coat condition
  • Hyperactivity

Because some of these same symptoms can appear as a result of other diseases, such as diabetes or kidney failure, your cat will need tests such as a blood profile and urinalysis to determine the actual problem.

Did You Know?
An over-active thyroid is more common in cats than in dogs,
and an under-active thyroid is more common in dogs than in cats.

How is hyperthyroidism treated?
There are four types of treatment available today. Your cat’s doctor will discuss with you which treatment [or combination] is recommended, based on your cat’s overall health:
1. Daily nutrition
2. Daily medication
3. Radioactive iodine therapy
4. Surgery

What should I do if I notice the symptoms listed above?
Contact your cat’s veterinarian for an examination so that he or she can determine which tests to run. It may turn out that your cat does not have hyperthyroidism, after all — and that’s important to know!

Good to know:
Do not attempt to diagnose or treat hyperthyroidism — or any other condition — on your own. Hyperthyroidism, in particular, is notably tricky to manage and requires professional guidance.

Never give your pet a medication that has not been prescribed or approved by your pet’s veterinarian.

Questions? Contact Us


Sources of information for this article:
Feline Thyroid Health, pamphlet by Hill’s Pet Nutrition
Saunders Manual of Small Animal Practice
Saunders Comprehensive Veterinary Dictionary


This article has been edited and updated from its original publishing date in April 2013.


Disclaimer: Information on this site is provided for educational purposes only, and is not meant to diagnose, treat, or cure your pet. Information provided on this site does not take the place of a valid client-patient-doctor relationship, nor does it constitute such a relationship. Your pet’s veterinarian is the best source of information regarding your pet’s health. Your pet may require an examination and testing by a licensed veterinarian in order to provide proper diagnosis and treatment. Neither Dr. Miele nor Little Creek Veterinary Clinic or its staff is responsible for outcomes based on information available on this site. Every pet’s condition is unique and requires the direct care and oversight of its own veterinarian.

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What is hyperthyroidism?
The thyroid gland, located in your cat’s neck, uses dietary iodine to make thyroid hormones (thyroxine) that help regulate important body functions, including:

  • Metabolism
  • Body temperature
  • Blood pressure
  • Heart rate
  • Gastrointestinal function

When a cat has hyperthyroidism, its thyroid gland is enlarged and it produces excessive amounts of thyroid hormone.

Illustration from Hill's Pet Nutrition pamphlet on Feline Thyroid Health.

Illustration from Hill’s Pet Nutrition pamphlet on Feline Thyroid Health.

Hyperthyroidism is most often diagnosed in cats older than 10 years. Untreated hyperthyroidism can have serious — even fatal — effects on organs such as the heart and kidneys.

What are the signs of hyperthyroidism?

  • Weight loss
  • Increased appetite
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Increased thirst
  • Poor skin and coat condition
  • Hyperactivity

Because some of these same symptoms can appear as a result of other diseases, such as diabetes or kidney failure, your cat will need tests such as a blood profile and urinalysis to determine the actual problem.

Did you know? An over-active thyroid is more common in cats than in dogs, and an under-active thyroid is more common in dogs than in cats.

How is hyperthyroidism treated?
There are four types of treatment available today:
1. Daily nutrition: limiting intake of dietary iodine reduces thyroid hormone production. One such food available to cat owners is Hill’s Prescription Diet y/d.
2. Daily medication: anti-thyroid drugs inhibit the production of thyroid hormones. Such drugs must be administered with caution, so that the person giving the medication does not accidentally absorb the drug.
3. Radioactive iodine therapy: radiation to treat abnormal thyroid tissue. This procedure is performed by a veterinary specialist, available through a referral by your regular vet. Treatment is considered highly effective, though it can be expensive if the pet is not covered by pet health insurance.
4. Surgery: removal of diseased thyroid tissue. Surgery is often successful, though some cats may afterwards require thyroxine replacement therapy either short-term or long-term.

Can I purchase Hill’s Prescription y/d at the store?
Y/d is available only through veterinarians. Because it is designed to act on thyroid hormone production, the food is not appropriate for all pets in a household; for this reason, it is not sold as an over-the-counter product.

Illustration from Hill's Pet Nutrition pamphlet on Feline Thyroid Health.

Illustration from Hill’s Pet Nutrition pamphlet on Feline Thyroid Health.

Why does the veterinarian recommend y/d?
In tests, y/d (when fed alone, without treats or other foods) improved thyroid health in 3 weeks. Also, when properly fed, the food is designed to eliminate the need for anti-thyroid drugs. Y/d also provides the daily nutrition your cat needs to stay healthy.
And remember what we said about hyperthyroidism affecting kidney and heart health? Y/d addresses those issues, too. Y/d contains carnitine and taurine for the heart and reduced sodium levels for kidney health.

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Sources of information for this article:
Feline Thyroid Health, pamphlet by Hill’s Pet Nutrition available at our clinic
Saunders Manual of Small Animal Practice
Saunders Comprehensive Veterinary Dictionary

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