The thyroid gland is a much-talked-about mystery for many cat owners. You probably know that it plays a role in the weight of your cat, and that vets will check it for irregularities when your feline suddenly gains or loses weight. But where is the thyroid gland located? What does it actually regulate? What is its purpose, other than to cause problems like hyperthyroidism? We’re here to explain thyroid function and help you understand how to best support this critical factor in your cat’s health.
What is the Thyroid Gland?
All vertebrates have a thyroid gland–that includes you and your cat. The gland produces thyroid hormones, which help to regulate certain processes that use energy in almost every organ of the body. In cats, the thyroid gland can be found just below the larynx, near the front of the neck. But you won’t be able to feel a normal gland by touching that area of your cat; the thyroid is made of two halves, both of which are anchored deep in the soft tissues around the larynx.
What Does the Thyroid Gland Do?
The thyroid gland controls your cat’s metabolism by producing thyroid hormones. These hormones control how fast the metabolism works. The metabolism, in turn, determines how your cat’s body uses energy across many different systems. Basically, the thyroid gland has a hand in almost every vital body function! This includes everything from breathing and heart rate to body weight and temperature.
What Can Go Wrong with My Cat’s Thyroid?
Since the thyroid gland is so essential to many different organ functions, it’s important to keep an eye out for symptoms that could indicate a thyroid problem in your cat. While feline hyperthyroidism is the more common disorder, hypothyroidism is also harmful. As your cat ages, be aware of any unusual weight gain or loss, and never hesitate to take a trip to the vet if you notice anything out of the ordinary. A natural supplement from Wapiti Labs can also help to support normal thyroid function in your cat.
Hyperthyroidism is the most common hormonal disease seen in cats, and usually occurs in aging felines. Essentially, the thyroid gland becomes enlarged and too active. When this happens, the gland starts to overproduce thyroid hormones. This speeds up your cat’s metabolism, causing many of your cat’s organs to use more energy. Hyperthyroidism can also cause secondary issues like increased heart rate and kidney damage. Some common signs of the disorder are:
- Weight loss
- Enlarged thyroid gland
- Increased appetite and thirst
- Increased urination
- Unkempt, greasy coat
- Rapid or difficulty breathing
The ultimate cause of hyperthyroidism in cats is unknown, although environmental and nutritional factors are suspected to play a role, and the disorder has no observable genetic markers. But the enlargement of the thyroid gland is usually caused by a benign (non-cancerous) tumor. In some uncommon cases, the tumor may be malignant.
Hypothyroidism is much more rare than feline hyperthyroidism. The disorder is exactly the opposite of the first: instead of becoming overactive, the gland becomes less active than normal and doesn’t produce enough hormones. This slows down your cat’s metabolism. Some indicators of the disease are:
- Weight gain
- Decreased appetite
- Unkempt coat
- Sluggishness or lack of energy
Because hyperthyroidism is common in older cats, there are a range of tests and treatment methods available to handle it. To diagnose a cat with hyperthyroidism, a vet will first feel your cat’s neck. While a normal thyroid gland is usually impossible to feel in this way, an enlarged thyroid gland can be felt. If your vet suspects a thyroid problem, he or she will probably also order a blood test and a test of your cat’s thyroid hormones to better diagnose the issue. From there, a treatment plan can be crafted.
Your vet may prescribe an anti-thyroid drug, which will cut down on the production of thyroid hormones. This will help to slow your cat’s overactive metabolism and control the thyroid issue. However, the medication can cause side effects in some cats, from listlessness to anemia. Your cat’s thyroid levels will have to be tested frequently to monitor the effect of the medication.
Radioactive Iodine Therapy
While medication can’t cure hyperthyroidism, radioactive iodine therapy can. It involves injecting your cat with a radioactive substance in a specially-licensed facility. The iodine destroys the part of the thyroid that is acting abnormally and allows your cat’s thyroid hormone levels to return to their proper levels. The downside to this method is that your cat will have to remain quarantined until its radiation levels have fallen to a safe number. In uncommon circumstances, this therapy can cause hypothyroidism.
Another potential cure for hyperthyroidism in cats is to surgically remove the thyroid glands. This surgery requires anesthesia, which can create additional health risks, particularly in older cats–the type most likely to have hyperthyroidism in the first place. The procedure also risks damaging other essential glands located close to the thyroid.
Supporting Your Cat’s Thyroid Health with Wapiti Labs’ Vital Supplement
The potential for hyperthyroidism and other issues to develop only increases in older cats, so it’s important to promote healthy thyroid function in your feline from an early age. The Vital supplement from Wapiti Labs utilizes a natural blend of Elk Velvet Antler and traditional herbs to support normal thyroid function in your cat. In addition, Vital aids normal renal function, liver health, and overall long-term health. Contact us to find out more about how our supplements can help your cat live a healthy life.