Skip to Main Content
Ask About Financing

Diet for Cats With Hyperthyroidism

Diet for Cats With Hyperthyroidism

While hyperthyroidism in cats can cause serious health issues if left unchecked, dietary changes may help treat the condition. In this post, our Gaithersburg vets will explain how switching up your cat's food can play a role in lowering their thyroid hormone levels.

What is hyperthyroidism in cats?

Located in the neck, your cat's thyroid glands produce a range of hormones that balance numerous body processes and control your cat's metabolic rate. If the thyroid gland releases an excessive or insufficient amount of these hormones, your cat will begin to experience symptoms of either hypothyroidism (insufficient hormone levels) or hyperthyroidism (excessive hormone levels). 

Hyperthyroidism will cause rapid acceleration in your cat's metabolism. This means your cat will burn energy too rapidly, leading to weight loss, even if you notice your feline friend has been consuming considerably more food than usual. 

What are the symptoms of hyperthyroidism in cats?

While cats of any breed can be affected by hyperthyroidism, this condition primarily affects older cats, typically those between 12 and 13 years old. Both male and female cats experience symptoms of varying severity. 

Symptoms of hyperthyroidism in cats often develop gradually but grow progressively worse over time. Additionally, other underlying health issues can complicate or mask these symptoms. therefore, it is critical to consult your veterinarian as soon as possible if your cat displays any of the symptoms listed below, which point to an excess production of thyroid hormones:

  • Irritability 
  • Increasing thirst
  • Restlessness
  • Mild vomiting or diarrhea
  • Increased heart rate
  • Low heat tolerance
  • Poor grooming habits 
  • Hearty or increased appetite 

When the condition advances, some cats will pant when they are stressed, which is unusual for cats. Though most cats suffering from hyperthyroidism have an exceptional appetite and are restless, others may experience a lack of appetite, or feel lethargic or weak. 

What causes hyperthyroidism? 

Typically, a non-cancerous tumor situated somewhere on the thyroid gland causes hyperthyroidism. However, the tumor can progress into thyroid cancer in rare cases. 

Is hyperthyroidism in cats painful? 

Hyperthyroidism often leads to subtle symptoms that set in as a cat reaches middle to old age, so even the most loving kitty owner may mistake the condition for normal aging rather than a serious disease that can lead to other internal health complications.

Unfortunately, many cases of hyperthyroidism in cats go unnoticed by owners and untreated, which can cause pain and anguish, and even death, for the cat afflicted by the condition. 

What are long-term complications of hyperthyroidism?

Left untreated, hyperthyroidism can impact the function of your cat's heart and potentially lead to heart failure.

Less frequently, the condition can lead to high blood pressure, which is associated with other severe health issues, including damage to the brain, heart, eyes, and kidneys. 

Hyperthyroidism and kidney disease often coexist in older cats. When this occurs, each condition will need to be closely monitored and managed, as the management of hyperthyroidism can sometimes negatively affect kidney function. 

How is hyperthyroidism in cats diagnosed?

Your vet can conduct a physical examination and examine your cat's neck area to detect signs of an enlarged thyroid gland. Because diagnosing hyperthyroidism in older cats can pose some challenges, your primary vet may refer you to Veterinary Referral Associates for diagnostic testing and advanced treatment.

Several conditions share clinical symptoms of hyperthyroidism, which may mean various diagnostic tests will be needed to diagnose the disease. These tests may include a straightforward blood test that reveals elevated T4 levels in the bloodstream. Your vet may order a complete blood count (CBC), chemistry panel, and urinalysis to eliminate other potential causes such as diabetes and kidney failure. 

The vet may also assess your cat's blood pressure or order an electrocardiogram, ultrasound, or chest X-ray.

How can hyperthyroidism in cats be treated with a modified diet?

Cats with hyperthyroidism, especially older felines whose bodies may find it challenging to absorb essential nutrients, can lose a significant amount of weight. Generally, cats with overactive thyroid glans require a high-calorie diet with enough fat, and plenty of high-quality, animal-based protein. 

Hyperthyroidism in cats can often be managed with a therapeutic diet prescribed by a veterinarian. This iodine-restricted diet aims to decrease the production of thyroid hormones in your cat's body since thyroid hormones require iodine for their production. 

To ensure the effectiveness of this treatment, it is crucial to adhere strictly to the low-iodine diet. This can be challenging for some pet parents and their cats. In addition to feeding your cat the prescription food, you must closely monitor your cat's treats and prevent them from hunting for mice or birds outdoors.

Your cat may not enjoy their low-iodine diet, and the uncomfortable symptoms of hyperthyroidism will probably continue if you try to mix a low-iodine food plan with your cat's regular food. However, it's important to stick to the diet plan prescribed by your vet. 

To help lower the amount of iodine your cat consumes, your vet may recommend avoiding products such as supplements, human food, and some flavored medications. 

Studies indicate that following a prescription hyperthyroidism diet for three weeks can lead to a decrease in thyroid hormone levels. Within a few months, these levels may even return to normal.

This diet may be used in conjunction with other treatment options such as radioactive iodine (I-131) therapy, antithyroid medication, or surgery to remove the thyroid. 

What is the prognosis for cats with hyperthyroidism?

If veterinarians diagnose and treat hyperthyroidism in cats early, they generally have a good prognosis. In cases where the condition has advanced, complications with other organs can worsen the prognosis.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Is your cat experiencing symptoms of hyperthyroidism? Contact our Gaithersburg vets today. We are passionate about providing your pet with quality care.

New Patients Welcome

Veterinary Referral Associates is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Gaithersburg companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

Contact (301) 926-3300