Feline Hyperthyroidism: What You Need to Know

Hyperthyroidism is a common disease that typically affects middle-aged and older cats. It is caused by an excess production of thyroid hormones, which are produced by the thyroid gland, located inside the cat’s neck. Thyroid hormones affect nearly all organs, which is why thyroid disease can sometimes cause secondary problems such as hypertension, heart […]

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Heart Disease in Cats

As cats get older, problems with their heart, kidneys and other organs can occur. The most common diseases affecting aging cats are cancer, renal or kidney disease, diabetes, hyperthyroidism (disease of the thyroid gland), dental disease and heart disease. Cats age seven times faster than humans and examinations done by your veterinarian twice a year can help detect diseases earlier when they can still be treated. Diagnostic tests such as blood work, ECG, ultrasound and blood pressure monitoring can help detect problems earlier.

The most common heart disease that occurs in cats is hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM). HCM occur more frequently in cats, and is considered rare in dogs. HCM is an acquired heart disease that affects the walls of the heart causing them to become abnormally thick. As the disease progresses the pumping capabilities of the heart reduces. The ventricular heart muscle eventually gets thicker and stiffer and decreasing the ability to contract to push the blood out as it should. The narrow heart chamber holds a smaller volume of blood, so less blood is pumped out of the heart with each beat of the heart., This results in the amount of blood that once filled the heart is less than it should be and the heart muscle can’t contract as well to move the blood out of the heart into the body. The heart now has to pump faster and harder than normal to keep the blood flowing throughout the body. The resulting pressure begins to back up the blood into the lungs causing edema and congestion and eventually leads to congestive heart failure.

Sometimes, the faulty heart will have changes in the conduction system that tells the heart when to contract. This some times causes arrhythmias and can result in sudden death similar to those found in some of our young athletes that collapse during practice.

Cardiomyopathy can also cause feline aortic thromboembolism or FATE. Occasionally, blood clots can dislodge and clog the arteries going to the rear legs. The thrombus (blood clot) causes a loss of blood flow to the rear legs resulting in sever pain, paralysis and possibly death,. This condition is commonly called a saddle thrombus. About 40% of the cats can recover from a saddle thrombus with expensive and intensive therapy and may regain use of their legs over time. However, these cats still risk developing another episode and still suffer from the primary heart condition.

Cats are very good as masking underlying physical problems so early detection is key to helping these cats live a full life. A fat and lazy cat may be hiding a heart condition. Of course not all fat and lazy cats a have heart disease, and exams by your veterinarian can help detect disease if it is present. Laboratory tests, such as, EKG, blood pressure monitoring and ultrasound can help the veterinarian diagnose heart disease. The thickened walls of the heart can be seen with ultrasound and is a screening tool for cats as well as our young athletes.

Medications can help cats with their heart function, reduce the edema in their lungs and may help reduce the blood clot formations. The prognosis for a cat that has already developed the congestive heart failure is guarded, and even with medication, survival rates are 12-18 months after diagnosis and sudden death can occur at any time.

Develop a wellness plan with your veterinarian for early detection and diagnostics. By detecting diseases earlier, small changes in diet or medications can help your cat live longer.

Caring for the Older Cat

If your cat is seven years or older, he has entered his golden years. In middle and old age, the metabolism slows, the digestive system has more difficulty absorbing nutrients, and joints and muscles become weaker. Diseases such as diabetes, kidney failure, hyperthyroidism, and various cancers are more common. The good news is that many illnesses respond to treatment if discovered early. Here are some simple steps to keep your senior cat healthy and happy.

Routine Veterinary Visits
Even if your cat seems fine, he should visit the veterinarian at least twice yearly. Remember, cats age the equivalent of four or more years for each calendar year. Your veterinarian will perform a comprehensive physical examination and listen to your cats heart and lungs. He will check for signs of illness, especially conditions that occur commonly in older cats. Your veterinary visits are also a great opportunity to ask questions.

Diagnostic Tests
When people reach middle age, routine tests such as blood analysis, cancer screening, and evaluation of the heart are recommended to maintain good health. The same is true for older cats. The reason, in both cats and people, is that some illnesses are not visible during a physical examination, but can be detected in other ways. Tests recommended for cats seven years or older are listed below.

Comprehensive Blood Panel Each type of blood cell is counted and the chemical components of the blood plasma are measured. This provides information on the health of the bone marrow, kidneys, liver, pancreas and thyroid, and can help to detect infections.

Complete Urinalysis The concentration and chemical constituents of the urine are measured. Cells and other solids in the urine are examined microscopically. The urinalysis provides information on the health of the kidneys and bladder, and is also useful in the detection of diabetes.

Chest X-Rays X-rays allow visualization of the internal organs of the body. Chest x-rays are recommended to assess the condition of the heart and lungs and to detect tumors.

Abdominal X-Rays X-Rays of the abdomen are helpful to detect tumors and to assess the condition of the kidneys, bladder, intestine, and spleen.

Electrocardiogram This test measures electrical impulses within the heart, using sensors placed on the skin. The ECG is helpful in detecting heart conditions.

Just as he did when he was younger, your cat continues to benefit from the protection of regular vaccinations against infectious disease. Your veterinarian will recommend a vaccine program tailored to your cats age, lifestyle, and health status.

Healthy older cats require a diet that is lower in calories, while still rich in essential nutrients such as high quality proteins, essential fatty acids, vitamins and minerals. Special diets are available to address the more specific requirements of cats with medical conditions. Your veterinarian is your best advisor in selecting a diet that will keep your cat purring.

Dental Care
Keeping your cats teeth and gums healthy is critical to his well being. Dental disease is painful and can lead to infection in the internal organs, such as the kidneys and heart. Your veterinarian should check your cats teeth regularly. He will let you know when your cat needs a professional dental cleaning. Under general anesthesia, all of the plaque, tartar, and bacteria is removed from the. After your cats teeth are clean, it is your job to keep them healthy. Tooth brushing and dental diets are highly effective.