get more to know hypothyroidism in cats


Get More to Know Hypothyroidism in Cats

July 29, 2016

Yes, Hypothyroidism in cats is possible. It’s not only in humans we see this condition happens, but in our four-legged friends as well.

Thyroid glands are actually small organs in the neck. They are located next to larynx. Basically, thyroid is responsible in basal metabolic rate. It produces thyroxine hormone.

In fact, hypothyroid is often found in human. However, it’s rare found in cats. Hypothyroidism in cats usually happens when you over-treat hyperthyroidism, a more common medical issue in cats.

The Overview

overview hypothyroidism in cats


Opposite to hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism is the condition where the thyroid gland is not active. Thus, the body cannot produce thyroid hormone. The hormones are triiodothyronine and tetraidothyronine.

Both are important to make the body function normally. Without those hormones, your cat will have excessive shedding, lethargy, hair loss, weight gain, inactivity, and cold intolerance.

Types of Hypothyroidism in Cats

types of hypothyroidism in cats


There are several types of hypothyroidism you should know. Even though hypothyroidism in cats is extremely rare, but the most common type when it happens is iatrogenic hypothyroidism. This is a condition when the thyroid function of your cat is very low due to over-treat of hyperthyroidism.

Here are the types of hypothyroidism and their treatment.

  1. Iatrogenic Hypothyroidism
  2. iatrogenic hypothyroidism


    This is a condition where you cat used to have hyperthyroidism. And due to over-treatment, the condition later change into hypothyroidism. The over active glands become under active.

    You can choose one of four available options for the treatment of this type.

    • Diet
    • This is the simplest treatment. You just have to make sure to feed your cat with foods which are very low in iodine. This is important to make the thyroid function again.

    • Injection
    • This is often known as I-131 treatment, a radioactive injection which is able to fix the abnormality in thyroid gland.

    • Surgery
    • This is for a severe case, when thyroid glands cannot function anymore, the only way is to remove them.

    • Lifelong Treatment
    • Usually the vet will prescribe methimazole, a drug which is able to replace the function of thyroid glands.

    Surgery may sound scary in this case, but don’t worry, this is not often performed by the vet. I-131 is a great option though. Cats are mostly very responsive to this technique.

    Once your cat has been treated, you still have to visit the vet regularly so the vet could monitor your cat’s condition. The thyroid level should be monitored to ensure that treatment has been succeeded.

    In the first few months after treatment, it is common for the thyroid levels to be below the normal range. This does not necessarily indicate hypothyroidism, but can result from any leftover thyroid cells recovering from the condition.

    Don’t worry if your cat’s thyroid levels remain low (below normal) a few months after the treatment. It doesn’t always mean hypothyroidism strikes again, but it is a sign that the leftover cell of the thyroid is still recovering.

    However, if after the normal time to have low thyroid level, your cat’s thyroid still doesn’t function properly, the vet may have to treat your cat for iatrogenic hypothyroidism.

    The signs which clearly show that your cat still needs further treatment are:

    • Elevated kidney values
    • Weight gain
    • Lethargy

    Yet, it’s still not classified as lethal disease because cats with this condition and even kidney disease might have longer survival rates as long as they are treated with drugs that can replace the function of thyroid hormones for the rest of their lives.

  3. Spontaneous Hypothyroidism
  4. spontaneous hypothyroidism


    This is a condition where the thyroid glands lose their function all of sudden, without other causes. This type of hypothyroidism is extremely rare in cats, though it’s not impossible to happen. The symptoms are:

    • Puffy face
    • Crusting skin, but in severe condition
    • Poor hair growth and even followed by hair loss
    • Low body temperature
    • Lethargy
    • Weight gain
    • Ear infections
    • Poor hair coat condition
    • Decreased appetite
  5. Congenital Hypothyroidism
  6. congenital hypothyroidism


    Like spontaneous hypothyroidism, this type is also rare in cats. However, there are some cats reported having this condition. This is where a cat’s born with defect ed thyroid glands. Thus, the ability to produce thyroxine may be limited. The symptoms are:

    • Fluffy kitten fur which may seem persistent
    • Cold weather intolerance
    • Baby teeth which may seem not to be replaced
    • Low heart rate
    • Low body temperature
    • Constipation
    • Mental dullness (or inability to grow normally like other kitties)
    • Lethargy
    • Short legs and round head
    • Stunted growth

    Those are often found in kittens which were born with congenital hypothyroidism. Yes, there are some breeds of cats that have round head, short legs, and fluffy fur. However, in this condition, the kittens seem unhealthy instead of cute.

General Symptoms

general symptoms hypothyroidism in cats


Apart from the type, generally signs of hypothyroidism in cats are the same. And the most noticeable one is weight gain. It’s because with hypothyroidism, cats may increase their water intake. Some of them, even though the others may lose their appetite, may have increased appetite as well.

Another common symptom is dry and dull coat. No matter how many times you groom your cat, if it is suffering from hypothyroidism, chances are the coat and fur will always look dull. It will also have tendency to lose hair.

Other observable hypothyroidism in cats symptoms include lethargy and being passive. Cats will lose their interest to play and do the normal activities. They may also stop playing with other cats they usually play with. It’s abnormal, especially for kittens that usually have tons of energy.

Cold intolerance is another general symptom of hypothyroidism. Cold intolerance is when the temperature drops outside, cats will seek out a super warm spot to lie. Yes, there are some cats that show this habit as well and they are not diagnosed with hypothyroidism. But cats with hypothyroidism wouldn’t do it before.

If you check your cat’s body temperature, you can also find out that it is lower than normal (or other cats). Sometimes, this can be a combination of hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism (lead to type number 1) and it can confuse the vet.

How Is It Diagnosed?

how is it diagnosed hypothyroidism in cats


Even though this is a rare case in cats, hypothyroidism is a super complex disorder. Thus, it can be difficult to diagnose. It is not rare to happen when the vets misdiagnose the cats. However, don’t worry. You just have to make sure the vet perform the test and examination as thorough as possible.

It’s recommended for you to write out the things you found out on the internet about hypothyroidism in cats symptoms and treatments in the journal and turn this over to your vet. Thus, the vet will be easier to diagnose.

First, the vet should have to check the medical history of your cat and find out whether the cat has a history of thyroid problem or not. After getting through the detailed check of medical history, the clinical test should be performed. CBC (Complete Blood Count) is usually conducted along with abdomen X-rays and urinalysis in some cases.

Other Possibilities

other possibilities hypothyroidism in cats


If you see that your cat has all the symptoms of hypothyroidism, don’t be quickly to judge. It’s because this condition is extremely rare in cats, so chances are the symptoms you noticed are the signs of other causes.

Decreased appetite, lethargy, inactivity, poor condition of coat and skin, and weight gain can also be the signs for:

General Treatments

general treatments hypothyroidism in cats


After it’s been confirmed that your cat is suffering from hypothyroidism, the phase of treatment will start. Usually, the medications given are meant to control the Endocrine gland.

There are also some cats prescribed with thyroid hormone supplementation which is meant to be a replace for thyroid hormones, and should be taken for good.

Another most usual medication to prescribe is levothyroxine (it can be labeled with other names), a synthetic drug which should be given daily to your cat. The vet will inform you how much dosage your cat should take based on how severe the condition is.

Even though hypothyroidism is not life threatening, but in a long time, it can lead to kidney disease, especially in older cats. If the medications don’t work, the vet may give you other options of I-131 therapy or even surgery.

Fortunately, in case of iatrogenic hypothyroidism, the therapy of hormone replacement will give improvements to the cats in a few weeks. For cats with other types of hypothyroidism, the prognosis is still unclear because those are a very rare condition.

No matter what medication you have for your cat, it’s important to be consistent. It means that the drugs prescribed should be taken based on the prescription of the vet right from the first. The administration and the dosage should be the same from the first treatment till the end. It will surely help control the condition. This doesn’t apply to surgery though.

The Maintenance

maintenance hypothyroidism in cats


The good news is, most cats with hypothyroidism will respond to the treatment very well. Even though in a few weeks after the treatment given the thyroid’s level of activeness may still below the normal, but it’s not a problem because it’s a sign of the cells there are recovering.

Even though the cat has shown improvements, you still have to observe and monitor its condition. The attentive home care is somehow needed, along with the vet’s care in the treatment’s plan. With the right treatment and care, mostly the signs of this disease will clearly disappear in around 4-6 weeks.

However, during the treatment you should also watch out. In some cases, cats with hypothyroidism in treatment can turn into hyperthyroid cats because of over-treat. It’s an opposite case of iatrogenic hypothyroidism.

If you see the symptoms like increased meowing, hyperactivity, and weight loss, you should visit the vet again and report this condition. Following up the condition of your cat with the vet, even though it may have showed good improvements and seemed healthy, is still important.

Having the blood level tested as well as reviewing the signs and symptoms are still needed. Evaluating the changes in medication should also be monitored. For the cats that have to take hormone replacement for the rest of their lives, never discontinue or decrease the dosage of the supplements.

Things to Note about Hypothyroidism in Cats

things to note about hypothyroidism in cats


If you’re worried about your beloved cat suffering from hypothyroidism, you need to know these important things about the disease. Hypothyroidism in cats is actually a rare disease but despite being rare, it is a serious threat. The fact that it’s a serious threat means that it should never be taken lightly.

Note that early recognition of this disorder’s signs can be a key of getting a proper treatment for it. It’s a very good thing if a veterinarian recognizes the signs of this disorder in a cat because he or she will be able to find the proper treatment to use if the signs are recognized early.

Also note that attentive home care combined with pro veterinary care can make this disease manageable and treatable. The next thing you’ll need to note is a fact that hypothyroidism in cats is actually a condition that affects female cats. Thus, if your cat is a male, you won’t need to worry too much about your cat suffering from this disease.

Oftentimes, hypothyroidism in cats isn’t deadly and it’s very manageable as long as a proper diagnosis and a proper treatment plan are used by the veterinarian who deals with it.

In short, if you have a cat and you’re worried about him or her suffering from hypothyroidism, you definitely don’t need to worry too much.

After all, even though it can be a serious threat, hypothyroidsm is, oftentimes, not deadly. With a veterinarian who can do a proper diagnosis and execute a proper treatment plan, the disease can be managed and treated.

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