One of the most common medical issues seen in small animal veterinary practices and the most common endocrine disorder in cats is hyperthyroidism. In addition to traditional medications and treatments, dietary choices can also aid a suffering feline.
When secreted in excess, thyroid hormones have profound metabolic effects on the entire body. Three problems are significant enough to warrant a detailed conversation with your veterinarian.
Of hyperthyroid symptoms seen in cats, weight loss and muscle wasting are the most common. As hyperthyroidism accelerates their metabolic rate and body's energy expenditure, cats lose weight. In effect, they burn up their food calories faster than they can consume them. Deceivingly, when hyperthyroid cats first lose weight, most retain their "belly" and may even score higher than an ideal body condition score.
However, over time, a cat's body loses mass and weight and even starvation becomes a serious threat to a pet's life. In feline hyperthyroidism, a cat's body consumes its own muscle tissue in order to derive the protein its needs to sustain a carnivorous life.
Hyperthyroidism creates serious complications for a cat's metabolic systems. Because systems are woven so closely together, this endocrine condition can create hyperglycemia, glucose intolerance and diabetes. Unfortunately, despite successful treatment of hyperthyroidism, the side effects of insulin resistance may worsen and cats may go on to develop diabetes despite not having had the condition at the time of diagnosis.
Like human beings, cats lose muscle mass as they age. This is a condition independent of their thyroid status. Additionally, cats' ability to digest protein is compromised as they age. Research has shown that geriatric cats seem to have nutritional requirements similar to kittens.
Cats require a large amount of protein in their diet. When considering dietary adjustments, it is imperative to ensure that the hyperthyroid cat receives as much protein as possible so as to maintain muscle mass.
Additionally, because most hyperthyroid cats have or will develop diabetes, a diet low in carbohydrates will benefit the cat's insulin activity and help stabilize his/her glucose metabolism. In general, many varieties of dry cat food are very high in carbohydrates. For this reason, dry food should be limited and/or eliminated from a hyperthyroid cat's diet. When selecting a food for a cat with hyperthyroidism, look carefully at the ingredient list. Ingredients that include quality meat or meat by-products are optimal. The primary source of protein should not come from vegetables and grains, although these can be a subsequent protein supplement. Remember to slow down the wasting of a cat's muscle mass by choosing cat foods that are high in quality protein.