One health issue that can plague cats as they get older is hyperthyroidism. Hyperthyroidism affects a butterfly-shaped organ located in your cat's neck which regulates your cat's metabolism and organ functions. Hyperthyroidism should not be ignored as it can also raise your cat's blood pressure and contribute to organ failure. Fortunately, there are treatments available so that your cat can live out the rest of its life normally. Symptoms can come on subtly, so here are a few signs to look for and the types of treatments available.

Symptoms of hyperthyroidism:

Nearly all cats that have this issue show visible signs of weight loss. They may have a normal appetite and are eating as usual, but still lose weight. A percentage of cats also show increased vomiting and diarrhea. It's not unusual for cats to develop a shaggy, almost unkempt appearance with matted fur, especially on the back or near the base of the tail. Some cats will also demonstrate an increase in hyperactivity and will sleep less.

Causes of hypothyroidism:

Causes can be difficult to pinpoint, but this problem tends to have an age-related risk factor. That is older cats are much more likely to have this problem than younger ones. Sometimes, foods high in iodine, such as fish, or soy-based foods can contribute to hyperthyroidism. Like humans, hypothyroidism in cats can also be caused by a nodule or tumor pressing directly on the thyroid gland. This can contribute to the thyroid putting out more hormones than usual. Fortunately, this tumor, itself, is rarely cancerous.

Diagnosis and treatment:

Your veterinarian will run a series of tests to check for thyroid hormones first. However, many cats will show normal levels, especially in the early stages, as the levels could be fluctuating throughout the day. If you cat is showing the other classic symptoms, then your veterinarian may do additional tests that focus on the heart or kidneys and do a chem panel and urinalysis. Once diagnosed, there are a variety of treatments available depending on the severity of your cat's hyperthyroidism. You cat may only need dietary therapy with a low-iodine diet, or possibly daily medication. If the problem is a tumor or nodule, then surgery can be performed to remove it if necessary.

If you suspect your cat has hyperthyroidism, be sure to have him checked out by a vet as soon a possible. Hyperthyroidism can cause severe high blood pressure and have a serious effect on your cat's heart and organs. Once your cat gets treated, his blood pressure may improve and the organs may recover depending on how soon you started treatment. If your cat is otherwise healthy, then he should have an otherwise normal life.