Thyroid problems are extremely common in older cats, particularly those that are 9 or older. There are two major types of thyroid issues: hyperthyroidism, or too much thyroid production, or hypothyroidism, too little thyroid hormone. Cats with thyroid problems have a variety of health problems and behavioral issues. Here's how to know if your cat has thyroid problems:
- Weight and food issues. If your cat has hyperthyroidism, one form of thyroid problems, you may notice increased appetite along with dramatic weight loss. Unexplained weight loss is usually the first sign of thyroid problems in a cat. If your cat is eating more but losing weight, he should be seen by a vet. With hypothyroidism, your cat will gain weight without increasing food consumption.
- Coat changes. Both types of thyroid problems can cause dull coats, flaking skin, and fur loss in cats. Your cat may look unkempt or unclean, and the hair may develop tangles and mats even if it was previously silky and manageable. These types of skin and coat symptoms are often a sign of illness, though they do not always indicate thyroid problems.
- Behavioral changes. Hypothyroidism tends to cause decreased activity levels. You may notice that your cat spends more time sleeping, and is not very excitable. On the other hand, hyperthyroidism causes cats to be restless or nervous. Though they may have higher activity levels, they may also appear aggressive or unsettled. Any unexplained behavior changes in your cat should be investigated by your vet, because they may be a sign of illness.
- Increased urination. Cats who have hyperthyroidism will drink more liquids and urinate more. This is also a common symptom of feline diabetes.
- Strength and heart rates. Cats with both forms of thyroid problems may show signs of muscle weakness or lack of coordination. You may notice tremors or labored breathing. Cats with hyperthyroidism tend to have an increased heart rate, which over time can damage their heart if the thyroid problem is left untreated.
It is important to notice these symptoms early so that your cat can be treated. Fortunately, while untreated hyperthyroidism can lead to heart failure, thyroid problems in cats are highly treatable. With prompt treatment, your cat can enjoy a long and happy life. Your veterinarian can perform a blood test and physical exam to diagnose your cat's thyroid problems. These symptoms can also be related to a wide range of other feline health conditions, which is why it is important to report them to your veterinarian.