Cats can suffer from a myriad of health issues, and thyroid problems are no exception. Thyroid diseases can present themselves in several different ways, which may make them difficult to identify.
In most cases, your veterinarian will be able to diagnose and treat your cat with standard thyroid medications, but there are some other things you can do as well that might help improve the quality of life for your feline friend.
If you suspect that your cat may have thyroid disease, read this article to find out what it could be and how you can help her.
What Is Hypothyroidism?
Hypothyroidism is when the thyroid doesn’t produce enough of the hormone thyroxine. Most cats can be treated with thyroid replacement therapy, but not all.
The most common presenting sign of hypothyroidism in cats is lethargy. Another sign is weight gain despite a lack of eating. Fur will grow thinner and more brittle while hair loss may occur on the skin or coat.
Other signs are constipation, high cholesterol levels, difficulty breathing, depression, mental sluggishness, muscle pain or weakness, and reproductive issues like infertility or poor sperm quality.
These symptoms can vary depending on how severe the case is so you should consult your vet if you think your cat might have this condition.
They’ll want to do blood work as well as check for physical abnormalities. If they diagnose your cat with hypothyroidism, they’ll prescribe treatment for it.
You can also help them by giving them supplements like vitamin D3 and omega-3 fatty acids. It’s important that you monitor their health closely because untreated cases of this disease can lead to heart disease, diabetes, cancer, liver disease, or anemia.
What Are the Symptoms of Hypothyroidism in Cats?
Cats with hypothyroidism are often described as having sluggishness, but symptoms can also include lack of appetite, sensitivity to cold, weight gain, enlarged thyroid gland (found in the front of the neck), hair loss, dry skin, and dandruff.
Cats with a case of hyperthyroidism typically exhibit behavior like overactive behavior, restlessness, or trembling. They might have difficulty breathing and might vomit or drool excessively.
They could have an increased heart rate, chronic diarrhea, or weight loss. If you notice any of these signs it is time to take your cat to the vet for further examination.
The veterinarian will do a complete physical exam on your cat, including checking their eyes, mouth, and ears.
Other tests that may be done include measuring the amount of thyroxine in their blood, drawing blood to measure cortisol levels, running X-rays, or doing ultrasounds on their kidneys.
Hypothyroidism is treated with daily doses of synthetic thyroxine which replaces what the body no longer produces naturally due to low thyroid hormone production.
Why Do Some of My Cat’s Symptoms Disappear When I Give Him Thyroid Medication?
Some of your cat’s symptoms may disappear when given thyroid medication because of a condition called central hypothyroidism, which is basically the same thing as having a goiter (enlarged thyroid gland) in humans.
A goiter can cause some symptoms such as weight gain and diarrhea that resolve when the person with the goiter gets treated.
Central hypothyroidism is caused by an underactive or slow-functioning pituitary gland, which tells the thyroid how much hormone to produce.
The problem is often not diagnosed until later stages when there are more noticeable symptoms like hair loss, lethargy, and weakness.
A veterinarian will perform blood tests to measure levels of thyroid hormones like T3 and T4 along with the free thyroxine index (FTI).
The FTI indicates how much circulating thyroxine is available for use by cells in your pet’s body. If it falls below normal values for age and breed then the diagnosis of central hypothyroidism is confirmed.
Will My Cat Become a Vegetarian If He Has Hypothyroidism?
In many cases, cats with hypothyroidism may eat less or refuse to eat at all. There are a number of reasons for this – the simplest being that the cat is feeling unwell and therefore doesn’t feel like eating.
Often, cats will also refuse to eat canned food as well as fish-based treats or anything with high salt content. You might find that if you take your cat outside in warmer weather they are more likely to eat than if they’re confined indoors.
If your cat does not have an appetite, there are some tasty foods you can try. As always, check with your vet before trying any new diets on your pet.
Many vets recommend Hill’s Prescription Diet® z/d® Canine and Feline Food for Hypoallergenic Conditions which has had good success rates so far. It’s available from veterinarians and online through various retailers.
There are also various other commercial cat foods designed specifically for weight loss due to thyroid issues such as Wysong EpigenTM Dry Cat Food (available online) which has soy-free products available.
Can Other Health Problems Contribute to Hypothyroidism in Cats?
Hypothyroidism is not uncommon in cats, with over two-thirds of hypothyroid cats showing concurrent diseases that affect their endocrine system.
For instance, in a study that looked at 519 adult cats, 36% had hyperthyroidism, 43% had hyperadrenocorticism (Cushing’s disease), and 24% had chronic kidney disease.
Other studies have shown similarly high numbers, with some finding up to 95% of hypothyroid cats exhibit at least one additional health problem.
It’s clear that the multi-organ nature of these illnesses often goes undiagnosed. However, it also seems likely that many are linked because all three diseases involve issues with the body’s hormones.
That said, there are definitely other conditions that can contribute to or cause hypothyroidism in cats. Feline leukemia virus (FeLV) has been found to suppress thyroid function in felines as well as act synergistically with feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) infection.
Chronic stress can also lead to hormonal problems, including increased levels of cortisol which can contribute to the development of thyroid dysfunction.
Will My Cat Outgrow Hypothyroidism?
Many cases of feline hypothyroidism are caused by environmental factors or viruses, so some cats can appear to outgrow the condition.
These changes in thyroid hormones are typically not permanent and a return of hypothyroidism symptoms may mean that the underlying cause has been re-established.
If a cat shows signs of neurological impairment like hind leg paralysis or becoming uncoordinated, it’s important to take him back to the vet for testing.
Finally, if your veterinarian determines that your cat needs a daily dose of levothyroxine (synthetic T4) to maintain his health, you’ll need to remember the importance of giving your cat medication every day at approximately the same time.
Remembering this one step could be life-saving for your kitty! Hypothyroidism is an illness that affects millions of cats worldwide and with proper diagnosis and treatment, many cats can lead healthy lives.
Your vet will want to perform blood tests before diagnosing a cat with hypothyroidism. The tests look for antibodies produced by the immune system in response to the destruction of cells by an unknown agent.
What Else Should I Know About Giving My Cat a Pill?
Pills may be a hassle for some, but there are ways to make them easier for both the person giving the pill and the cat. One way is by using oral medication that can be put in liquid forms, like a syringe.
This way, all you have to do is hold the syringe in front of the cat’s mouth, use your other hand to gently open their mouth up with one finger, then administer by squeezing down on the plunger with your thumb or index finger.
It’s as easy as 1-2-3! Another way to get cats to take pills is by putting them inside an animal cookie.
These cookies come pre-made at pet stores, so all you need to do is cut off a small piece of the cookie and push it through into the hole that was cut out for your cat’s head when you first opened it.
The larger the pill, the more pieces you’ll need to break off until your cat will eat it. Be sure not to give too much or they might choke. And if all else fails?
Some people have found success by just hiding the medicine under their cat’s food dish and letting them find it themselves.
They might not know what it is right away, but after eating it a few times they should figure out that this type of food is better than anything else they’re getting from home (or from someone else).
What are some other things I can do to help my cat feel better while he’s adjusting to his new diet and medication?
Your veterinarian will likely recommend a high-quality thyroid supplement like thyroflex, compounded T4/T3, or L-thyroxine.
You can also add some healthy oils to help your cat’s skin and coat feel more luxurious, such as olive oil, avocado oil, coconut oil, or any other favorite.
And don’t forget about probiotics! Adding these digestive health boosters to your cat’s diet can make all the difference when it comes to its gastrointestinal tract.
It’s also important for digestion that cats are eating twice per day – so be sure you’re feeding them at the same time every day so they get on the same schedule as you.
If you find your kitty is just not interested in anything else but fish, then do what feels right for you!
Some people choose to offer only fish (and water) while others feed a mix of turkey and chicken. Just remember that this transition period may take up to two months before his thyroid levels stabilize completely and his weight starts to decrease.