One of the most common diseases in older cats is hyperthyroidism. It usually occurs in geriatric cats, over 9 years of age. This is caused by an overactive thyroid gland due to a benign but functional tumor in the gland. The result is an excess of thyroid hormones in the body, which significantly speeds up the metabolism. The excess hormones affect the heart, causing a rapid heart rate and increase breakdown of fat and protein, causing your cat to lose weight and become very thin. Common signs of hyperthyroidism include:
- Polyphagia (eating more than usual)
- Weight Loss
- Behavioural changes- restlessness, irritability and being more demanding of food or attention
- Vomiting or Diarrhea
Any of these signs in an elderly cat should trigger suspicion of hyperthyroidism. To start with, the vet may do some blood tests to check the levels of thyroid hormones as well as to check the function of other organs such as the liver and kidneys.
Once the disease is confirmed, there are two main treatment options that are commonly used. The first is medication, and involves giving your cat tablets two to three times a day, and frequent blood testing to ensure the thyroid hormone levels are under control. The other option is nuclear medicine. This procedure requires special equipment and is only carried out in certain hospitals. If there is such a facility close to you, than this option may be preferred to medication if your cat is difficult to give tablets to. It is, however more expensive in the short term and involves your cat staying in the hospital for a few days while the radioactivity decreases to a safe level. Side-effects with both methods are minimal and both options are fairly effective. Hyperthyroidism should definitely be treated, but the method chosen will depend on finances, the cat’s health status and availability of treatment.
What do you think? Would you operate on the cat or go for the meds in this case? Share your opinions with us in the comments below.