By Dr. Andrew Jones
If you have an older cat with increased appetite, but also with weight loss then they likely have hyperthyroidism. This is a very common cat disease, primarily affecting middle aged to older cats. In this article I will explain what hyperthyroidism is, going over the most common signs and causes. I will then cover your options for treatment, including the most effective natural solutions.
This is a disease that occurs only in cats. Your cat will usually be over the age of 10. She will have an increased appetite, but will be losing weight. Her coat will be sparse. She may be urinating more often. She will have evidence of muscle loss. You may be able to feel an enlarged thyroid gland beside her Adam’s apple. Her heart rate will be elevated (greater than 200 beats per minute).
In hyperthyroidism, the thyroid gland enlarges and produces an excess of thyroid hormone. This speeds up your cat’s entire metabolism, producing the signs of weight loss, increased appetite, elevated heart rate and often high blood pressure.
The disease is diagnosed based on a veterinary exam, and in many instances enlarged thyroid glands can be palpated on either side of your cat’s trachea (windpipe). High heart rate, and elevated blood pressure point towards hyperthyroid disease. A chemistry panel measuring thyroid hormone (T4) can confirm the diagnosis of hyperthyroidism.
One of the safest and most effective ways to treat your hyperthyroid cat is with radioactive iodine. Your cat will be given one dose of radioactive Iodine that selectively targets the abnormal thyroid cells. It requires a specialized licensed facility, and can only be performed at a few referral practitioners.
Surgery is a potential option, but based on the risks of hypocalcemia, and anesthetic concerns in older cats, it is seldom performed.
Most cats are treated with a conventional medication called methimazole, but the medication has drawbacks. First medication must be given at least daily, usually twice a day- and this can be a challenge. 15% of cats have some type of side effect, typically GI ( vomiting, diarrhea, innapetance). Some can have allergic type reactions ( ie facial scratching). A small percent will have serious liver disease, and some can have their bone marrow affected ( this happens in 2-4% of cats on medication).
Carnitine is a supplement that has been found to be effective in reversing the signs of hyperthyroid disease in people. The starting cat dose is 250 mg a day.
Bugleweed Lycopus europeus) and Melissa (Melissa officinalis). These are two herbs that have been used in combination to combat the effects of hyperthyroid disease. Bugleweed has been shown to decrease thyroid hormone levels in rats 24 hours after administration. The standard dose is 1 drop per lb of body weight of the tinctures given twice daily.
Nat Mur is a homeopathic used for thyroid hormone reduction. Alternate practitioners’ favor Nat Mur 30C as the remedy of choice. In fact a clinical trial with this homeopathic gave impressive results, treating the hyperthyroidism in many of the cats. Give 1 tab every 12 hours and assess the response after 30 days.
This very common cat disease, hyperthyroidism, has some fairly classic signs of increased appetite, with accompanied weight loss that all cat owners should be aware of. The cause is due to overproduction of thyroid hormone by the thyroid gland, and the diagnosis is fairly simple with a blood test measuring T4. There are 3 primary conventional treatments, but the most common one ( a drug called methimazole), produces side effects in 15% of cats, some very serious. Fortunately there are a few specific holistic options for you to consider, and they have helped many a hyperthyroid cat.
Dr Andrew J
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