Cats and dogs are opposites in a lot of ways, but thyroid activity is perhaps the most distinct. The thyroid gland does a lot – it regulates the body’s metabolism.
Cats typically develop HYPERthyroidism – the thyroid gland is overactive. Most owners notice their cat is eating the same amount or a lot more, yet is losing weight. Some cats vocalize more, some develop a greasy haircoat.
Dogs are the opposite – they typically develop HYPOthyroidism, or have low thyroid function. Owners usually notice their dog is gaining weight, despite no changes in diet or routine. Some dogs will lose their fur in places, while others may have dry skin. However, not every overweight dog is hypothyroid! We’ll often test and find out the dog is healthy, just being fed too much of the wrong things.
So how do we test for it? We draw blood and send it to…. it gets interesting. If it’s our first time testing, we send the blood to the local veterinary lab. However, some animal’s thyroids don’t “follow the rules.” For this reason, many vets have a relationship with Michigan State University Diagnostic Lab. They are the national authority in thyroid pathology, and can test the many other hormones involved in the control of the thyroid gland.
Treatment varies a lot! Dogs are simple – we supplement their underactive thyroid with an oral form of thyroid hormone. Cats have many options, ranging from pills to prescription diets to prescription creams applied to the skin. There is even a procedure at a specialist that permanently cures the cat of the overactive thyroid using radioactive Iodine.
Regardless of if you have a dog or cat with a diseased thyroid, regular monitoring is the most important part to make sure we are keeping the thyroid level in check.