Sleepy DogThe endocrine system is a group of glandular organs that secrete hormones, and is responsible for regulating bodily functions such as metabolism, growth, tissue function, and reproduction. It is composed of important players, including the adrenal glands, the thyroid gland, and the ovaries or testes. The endocrine system is controlled by the pituitary gland and hypothalamus of the brain, and Its health is essential for the proper functioning of the body.

One of the most common dysfunctions of this system we see in pets involves the thyroid gland.

Learn about how this affects our animal patients and what we can do to treat hyperthyroidism in pets.

Understanding Thyroid Dysfunction

The thyroid is a bi-lobed gland that lies alongside the trachea in the neck. It manufactures and secretes thyroid hormone, which is key in regulating metabolism. Sometimes the thyroid gland does not secrete hormone in a biologically appropriate way. It can make too little thyroid hormone, which is referred to as hypothyroidism. This is most commonly seen in our canine patients.

The thyroid gland can also secrete too much hormone, which results in hyperthyroidism. The vast majority of hyperthyroidic pets are cats. Diabetes may produce similar symptoms in cats but blood work and urine testing usually indicate the issue. If not, more advanced testing will   confirm the diagnosis.

Hyperthyroidism often develops from a benign but functional tumor in the thyroid gland. Because the gland is secreting too much hormone, the metabolism of the affected animal is increased. This results in the most commonly seen symptoms of hyperthyroidism:

  • Weight loss
  • Increased appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Agitation or change in personality
  • Increased vocalization
  • Increased thirst and urination

Hyperthyroidic animals are also predisposed to high blood pressure and may experience related symptoms, such as changes to vision.

Helping Hyperthyroidic Pets

Thankfully, for most affected pets, hyperthyroidism is a very manageable condition. If your pet is diagnosed with hyperthyroidism, several treatment options exist. Different options may be better in different situations, but, in general, they all are very effective choices. We may choose to manage this disease process with:

Diet – Hyperthyroidism can be managed successfully by restricting iodine consumption. Because iodine is required for the production of thyroid hormone, feeding an iodine deplete diet like Hill’s Prescription Diet y/d can control the effects of hyperthyroidism.

Medication – Medications, such as methimazole, interfere with the production of thyroid hormone, decreasing the effects of hyperthyroidism. For most cats it must be dosed twice daily for life. It is readily available in pill form, but can be compounded into a liquid or a transdermal lotion.

No matter whether your pet needs diagnostic imaging for diagnosis of thyroid disease or you are considering treatment options, we are here to help you. Hyperthyroidism in pets is a common disease, but thankfully a very treatable one.