Meet Chester, our Pismo Beach Veterinary Clinic Pet of the Week. Right around the time Chester’s people were set to go on vacation, Chester started to get sick. He became lethargic and wasn’t eating well. Luckily, Chester was left in the hands of his capable petsitter, Annette, who works at the clinic as our receptionist. Chester failed to eat from the moment Annette began watching him, so she brought him in to be seen. Chester was depressed, weak, dehydrated, and had lost a significant amount of muscle weight. He also began to have neuromuscular weakness in which he couldn’t raise his head or lap his water. We were very concerned.
Fairly extensive testing revealed Chester to have both hyperthyroid disease and pancreatitis. Both diseases can be quite treatable but can also be fatal, so having two life-threatening diseases at once was a little unnerving. But with a guarded prognosis, Chester’s people and the PBVC staff had faith that he could turn around. It took Chester a few days, but by about day #5 of hospitalization, he started to lift his head and look a lot brighter. On about day #6, he was purring, grooming and seeking attention and cuddles again. Finally, by about day #7, he started wolfing down his food on his own again, the last thing we were waiting for in terms of him making a full recovery!
Hyperthyroidism is a common disease of older cats. Symptoms are usually found in an active, healthy-seeming cat and may include a voracious appetite, increased thirst and urination, weight loss usually despite a good appetite, vomiting, poor hair coat, vocalization, and/or behavior changes. In early disease, no outward symptoms may be evident but we can catch it on examination and blood work. On physical exam, sometimes a nodule on the thyroid gland is felt or a heart murmur is heard. Hyperthyroidism can lead to heart disease, blindness, hypertension and eventually death, if untreated.
In Chester’s case, he was experiencing what is known as thyrotoxicosis, or a thyroid storm. This is a rare consequence of untreated, advanced thyroid disease in which the patient feels sick and has a poor appetite. It can be difficult to diagnose since symptoms are opposite the average patient. Fortunately, if caught early enough, hyperthyroidism is very treatable and cats can live fairly normal lives. For these reasons, an annual examination (or every 6 months for geriatric pets) and routine blood screening is recommended to evaluate a patient’s health even if they seem outwardly healthy.