SPARKY’S owner had been quite pleased – despite the cat’s advancing years, he was still lively and eating well.
But it was starting to lose weight and its coat was looking rather poor and unkempt, so he had to come to us for a check-up.
Sparky was purring enthusiastically, making it difficult for me to listen with my stethoscope, but I could feel his heart pounding through his chest and, sure enough, as I ran my hands down Sparky’s neck I could feel a little lump alongside his windpipe.
A blood test subsequently confirmed my suspicion that he was suffering from an overactive thyroid gland.
Hyperthyroidism is a very common disorder of older cats, and Sparky’s signs were typical, although sometimes cats will appear lethargic and drink a lot as well.
Fortunately, most cases are caused by a benign enlargement of the thyroid gland, which is treatable. We started Sparky on some tablets to control his condition and monitored him for kidney disease. which can be present alongside the thyroid problem. You can keep your cat on tablets and, thankfully, side effects from the medication are rare.
But an alternative, if your pet is a suitable candidate for anaesthesia, is to have the affected gland removed surgically. Treatment with radioactive iodine probably offers the safest and most effective treatment, but does involve your pet spending several weeks in a specialist centre – London or Canterbury are nearest – because of the radioactivity.
A more recent option is to feed a special diet which is low in iodine, so the gland cannot make more thyroid hormone than it needs – worth considering if you can control your cat’s diet.
Three months later, I am pleased to say that Sparky is looking much better, and has regained all the weight he lost, so his owner elected to keep him on the tablets for the time being.
But your vet will discuss the options with you in more detail, and help you choose the best one for your pet.