The thyroid gland in dogs and cats: what to do if it causes problems

“A skeleton with fur” is how Sabine Schroll describes drastically what she sometimes finds on her treatment table. The vet from Krems in Austria specializes in cats. Every now and then someone comes to her who hardly resembles a cat anymore.

Emaciated to the bone, the fur ragged and matted, with a racing heartbeat, so that Schroll can feel just by touching how electrified the animal is.

In order to clarify the thyroid values, the vet first creates a blood count. Sometimes, however, she sees a cat patient whose hormone levels are still within the normal range, even though clear symptoms are already present.

“Then I check other values,” says Schroll. “Or I’ll do another blood count two weeks later.” Because the standard values ​​can sometimes be deceptive. Because they are calculated from the mean values ​​of thousands of healthy animals, they do not cover all manifestations of a disease.

A malfunction of the thyroid gland – in dogs as well as in cats – must always be diagnosed and treated. Untreated hyperthyroidism in cats leads to death, for example heart or kidney failure.

Veterinarians treat the hypofunction of the thyroid primarily with two approaches: medication or radioiodine therapy. Administered once or twice a day, so-called antithyroid drugs inhibit the hormone production of the thyroid gland.

She guesses at the beginning of the treatment also to an ultrasound of the kidneys to ensure that the hyperthyroidism is not masking kidney disease. In radioiodine therapy, radioactive iodine is injected into the thyroid gland. It destroys the surrounding thyroid cells and thus permanently prevents hyperfunction.

Therapy is carried out only in specialized clinics. The cat must also be hospitalized until the radiation exposure – which is no higher for the animal than with a computer tomography – has been reduced again. A third option, surgery, is now rarely performed. In addition to the risk of anesthesia, which is increased in hyperthyroid cats, there is also a risk that the parathyroid glands will be damaged.

The thyroid gland in dogs and cats: what to do if it causes problems

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