Thyroid problems in pets
Whilst most of us have heard of the thyroid gland, did you know that thyroid problems are surprisingly common in older pets?
The thyroid gland consists of two tiny lobes located on either side of the trachea (the windpipe) in the neck. The thyroid gland produces thyroid hormone which regulates your pet’s metabolic rate. Too much thyroid hormone speeds up the body’s metabolism, whilst too little slows it down.
Hyperthyroidism in cats
Over production of thyroid hormone is called hyperthyroidism and is a relatively common condition in cats over eight years of age. In the majority of cases this is caused by benign (non-cancerous) enlargement of one or both thyroid lobes. Hyperthyroid cats typically have an increased appetite, but despite this, commonly show signs of weight loss and often become quite unkempt in appearance. In addition, excess thyroid hormone usually increases the heart rate, potentially leading to abnormal thickening of the heart muscle and increased blood pressure. As well as the above, a variety of other signs may be seen including increased activity, more miaowing and quite often a greater need for affection. Vomiting and diarrhoea may also be seen.
Happily, however, in the majority of cases, hyperthyroidism in cats can be successfully managed. There are a range of treatment options including daily medication, surgery, radio-iodine therapy and feeding a special low-iodine diet.
Hypothyroidism in dogs
Under production of thyroid hormone is called hypothyroidism and is a relatively common condition in the older dog. Lower levels of thyroid hormone result in a decrease in the metabolic rate, usually leading to weight gain (with no increased appetite) and generalised lethargy. Other signs often include coat problems and recurrent skin and ear infections.
Diagnosis of hypothyroidism is often more difficult than hyperthyroidism. However, once a diagnosis has been made daily treatment with oral thyroid supplements is usually very effective.
The good news is that generally in both these conditions, once diagnosed they can be well managed. If you are concerned that your pet is showing any of these clinical signs, make an appointment to see your vet to discuss this in more detail.
Chris Devlin BVSc MRCVS is a Vet and Partner at Hillside Veterinary Centre in Corfe Mullen. w: www.hillsidevets.co.uk.