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The Magically Shrinking Cat

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Posted on 06-21-2016

The Magically Shrinking Cat

Several years ago a skinny, scrawny, black and white long haired cat came by my back yard patio door in the middle of a freezing February morning. He decided to spray urine up and down the patio door until icicles formed and then continued to hang out in the back yard expecting to be let in. I did not want to let him into my house because a cat who sprays outdoors will likely also spray indoors. But it was minus 15 and he looked cold and sad so we decided to let him in. Once inside we found out just how much the poor guy was suffering outside. His coat was dirty and matted on his underside and he was horribly thin.

He gorged on all the food we had out for our other cats and then proceeded to regurgitate it and eat it again. The next morning, he came with me to the vet to be cleaned up and checked out. Pictures were taken and he was put on notice as a found cat for 3 months. No one ever came forward to look for him.

This is how we got Tomassi Tomassini.

Tomassi became the fattest and most well fed cat in my household. After starving for some time, food became his single most priority in life. He filled out to a decadent 9kg in his prime. When he turned 11, however, he was still eating the same and suddenly started to look thinner. And although his overeating and regurgitating had stopped for years, it suddenly came back. And then he started to vocalize a lot. Suddenly we were having conversations we hadn’t had in 10 years. So I started to wonder…. Could Tomassi be hyperthyroid? 

The thyroid gland is located at the base of the neck and secretes a hormone called Thyroxine that regulates your metabolism. If it grows a small tumour (common in older cats) it starts to secrete thyroxine at high amounts. Suddenly your metabolism speeds up and you start to lose weight despite the fact that your appetite is increasing. A simple blood test confirmed that Tomassi was indeed hyperthyroid.

There are several treatment options available to treat hyperthyroid cats. The most radical is radio-active iodine therapy at the University of Guelph where they inject a radioactive isotope into the bloodstream and it is quickly taken up by the thyroid gland. The quantity of radiation destroys the abnormal thyroid tissue restoring the hormone levels back to normal within 1-2 weeks of treatment and then no further treatment is necessary.  Surgical removal of the thyroid gland is also an option but not recommended often as there are much easier ways to treat it now.  A unique approach to treating hyperthyroidism is with a food made by Hills Nutrition called Y/D.  They make this food exclusively without any iodine. The thyroid gland needs iodine in order to function (this is the reason we have iodized salt).  By eating only this food and nothing else (including treats or cat nip) you are robbing the gland of its ability to produce thyroxine hormone.

The last option is what I chose to do for Tomassi. I chose to give daily Thyroid Medication.  I am going to toot my own horn here; I am an expert cat piller. But the fact that Tomassi is an easy going cat makes it a pleasure to do too. I simply pop him half a tablet orally morning and evening and it regulates his thyroid gland. This same drug can be compounded into a tasty treat or a gel that you put in the ear twice daily for those that struggle with pilling.

Whether treating with medication or giving the special diet, it is important to know that this is a lifelong disease which requires daily administration (food or medication) and regular monitoring of their thyroid function.

Now after 1 week of medicating Tomassi, he stopped vomiting and talking to me altogether. His weight has stabilized and he is a sexy size 6kg cat going on 14 years now :)  

If you have questions about thyroid disease, remember we are here to help. 

Brigitte, VT


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