Hyperthyroid Cats

Question:  My neighbor has a cat that has been diagnosed with hyperthyroidism.  Is there anything naturopathically that can be given to keep her heart from speeding? Mary

Answer: Regarding the hyperthyroid cat. I am a total believer in radioactive iodine. Many years ago my own cat Callie had been losing a bit of weight each year even though her dietary intake had not changed. She started to drink more water and seemed a bit nervous to me. I palpated her neck and thought I felt an enlarged thyroid gland. She had started getting very vocal and was wandering around the house at night meowing for no reason ( a symptom that veterinarians often miss) so I did an x-ray on her, a urinalysis to check for kidney function and turned in blood work to check overall health and for hyperthyroidism and renal failure.

Sure enough, her thyroid levels were off. She was hyperthyroid. I had seen it so many times before. I called around to find a veterinary facility to inject her with radioactive iodine and in the mean time I ordered some Tapazole (Methimazole) as the clinic was booked about three weeks out. She hated the tapazole and anything else I tried to push down her throat. She was starting to avoid me when I came into the room actually. I felt so bad for her.

I was going to drive her over to Seattle after I got back from the continuing education seminar I needed to go to for maintaining my veterinary license. The night before I left Callie jumped on my lap and wouldn’t get off. I should have known something was up because she had never been an affectionate cat before. She’d let me pet her on the floor, but she never jumped up into my lap. I really didn’t want to leave her at all. I knew she was in a critical situation so I asked my friend and technician, Lacey, if she would take care of her for me. As I was driving over to Lacey’s house I had a horrible feeling this would be the last time I would see Callie.

On the third day of the seminar as I was walking to the lecture building I saw a dead crow. It was just lying there in the middle of the sidewalk. No trees or perches or anything around that it could have fallen from. I stopped to look at it and thought. “Uh oh. This is a bad sign.” Oh how I hated being there at that moment.

Callie died while I was away. She was so freaked out with the car ride and being in a new place that she spent the first two days under Lacey’s bed and wouldn’t eat.

Lacey tried to call me and left an emergency message at the place that we were to stay that night. At that time we didn’t have a cell phone let alone cell phone coverage. When we got to their house our friends forgot to tell me that Lacey had called but they did say after a couple of hours that she had called and that it was an emergency. “And you’re just telling me this now?” I asked as I dialed her number shaking almost uncontrollably. I was so upset. Lacey answered the phone crying.

She died of a heart attack in my friend’s arms the same time that she was finally able to talk to me on the phone. We just felt helpless. Lacey loved Callie almost as much as I did. I lived in an apartment adjacent to my clinic at the time so Callie had been our clinic cat.

I was SO mad at those people for not telling me sooner that she had called.  Maybe I could have saved her. I played the “what if” game for years after that and Lacey had a hard time forgiving herself also.

Our friends tried to console me by telling me that she was old and had had a good life. I could get another cat, they offered.

Little did they know how much Callie had meant to me and how often she had been there for me when no one else was. She was my child. Instead of telling them they were old too and that spouses could be replaced I bit my tongue and went out into my car and spent an hour crying there to get away from them. I just wanted to go home—not fulfill another weeks’ worth of obligations.

It was totally horrid and I grieved for years. I should have been there for her. I should have been able to give her a few more years of wonderful life.

I have seen NO bad things happen from all the hyperthyroid cases treated with radioactive iodine that I have been involved with (and that has been about 30 personal cases as a doctor.) I used to work in Springfield, OR where a doctor in the hospital I was working at used to do them for people all over the country. The cats that were treated were in the clinic for about 5 days and were released as healthy cats that lived another three years. I so wanted that for my Callie.

Natural treatments for feline hyperthyroidism:  Tapazole pill works for a while but then the cat vomits them up over time. They taste horrible but not as horrible as all the herbs used to treat hyperthyroidism.

Natural stuff is pretty much worthless (sorry to say) in cats. It’s just so hard to pill cats on a regular basis let alone squirt a big bunch of herbs and supplements down their gullets a few times each day. In addition, stress puts a monkey-wrench into the whole program by raising their heart rates and using up essential energy. Drugs and natural treatments don’t prevent their heart from enlarging either. Not treating at all puts severe stress on the system. I’d rather not see my beloved pet suffer to death without treatment.

I’ve coached many human hyperthyroid cases with success and granted hyperthyroidism is easier to manage with alternative methods in humans, but they can blow it big-time and end up at the emergency room if they stray too far from stabilizing lifestyles and protocols or stop taking their supplements. So, in this case, at least for cats, I’d say allopathic medicine rules. Sorry! Natural medicine can’t fix everything!  

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