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When a pet’s body overproduces the thyroid hormone, it increases their metabolism, potentially resulting in weight loss, anxiety, vomiting, cardiac arrhythmia, and a multitude of other symptoms. This condition, known as hyperthyroidism, is very rare in canines but is fairly common among cats. Hyperthyroidism is a condition that usually affects older pets and is most likely caused by a benign tumor on the cat’s thyroid gland that secretes excess thyroid hormone. Rarely, hyperthyroidism can be caused by a malignant carcinoma of the thyroid gland.
Symptoms of hyperthyroidism in canines:
• Enlarged thyroid gland.
• Excessive thirst.
• Heavy, rapid breathing.
• Increased appetite but no weight gain.
• Increased activity or vocalization, especially at odd times (such as overnight).
• Increased urination.
• Rapid heart rate.
• Shaggy hair texture.
• Weight loss.
Treatment options for pets with hyperthyroidism
There are four primary forms of therapy used to treat hyperthyroidism depending on the severity of a pet’s particular case as well the cause behind the issue.
When a pet owner opts for non-invasive treatment, medication is prescribed that inhibits the production of thyroid hormones. Medication can be administered in pill form, or it may be possible to have it compounded into a liquid or transdermal formula.
There is also a prescription diet that may be used to manage hyperthyroidism. This diet is, among other things, highly restricted in iodine. The thyroid requires iodine to produce hormone, so this diet (if fed exclusively—no treats or table scraps allowed!) will help limit the effect of excess thyroid hormone on your cat’s body.
Other treatment options are more involved and may require referral to a specialist. The veterinarian can surgically remove the thyroid gland entirely, although usually only one gland is removed. If both thyroid glands are removed, the opposite condition, hypothyroidism, can result. When a tumor is causing overactive thyroid, radioactive iodine therapy is usually the treatment of choice. In liquid form, radioactive iodine destroys thyroid tissue without harming any other bodily tissues. Eventually the iodine is passed out of the cat’s body through the urinary tract, so your cat’s kidneys must be healthy or this is not a viable option. After treatment, your cat must be held in isolation to prevent other pets and people from being exposed to radioactive byproducts.
If your pet is exhibiting the symptoms of hyperthyroidism or you have more questions about the condition, please contact our office today.