Hyperthyroidism, aka overactive thyroid gland, runs neck and neck with diabetes as the most common disorder affecting older cats. A proper diet helps keep your cat from wasting away as you treat this condition, and requires lots of protein and less carbohydrates and iodine to keep his strength up.
Hyperthyroidism is essentially too much of a good thing. The thyroid gland produces thyroid hormones, which regulate your cat's metabolism. Too much thyroid hormone basically kicks your cat's metabolism into overdrive, spurring it to burn through energy faster than otherwise necessary. This means he uses calories faster than he can replace them. Your cat's appetite typically increases in this condition, as he is, in essence, trying to keep up with all the calories and energy his body is using.
High Protein Diet
If your cat can't keep enough calories shoveled down his gullet -- and depending on the severity of the hyperthyroidism, he may not -- his body essentially will start eating itself to keep up energy levels. Once all fat stores are depleted, which can happen quickly, muscle is the next target. Foods high in protein help preserve muscle mass, which can help keep your cat strong. All protein is not created equal, as cats digest and metabolize protein from meat sources easier than plant versions. Seek out a cat food with meat as the main ingredient, and high protein levels to help combat muscle loss.
Low Carbohydrates and Iodine
Many cats with hyperthyroidism develop diabetes if their condition isn't controlled, which can complicate matters. Even if your cat doesn't officially have diabetes yet, his hyperthyroidism may trigger the beginning stages of insulin resistance. Foods too high in carbohydrates can push him from not-quite diabetes into full-blown diabetes without warning. Many cat foods also contain iodine, which is what the thyroid gland uses to create thyroid hormones. Too much iodine essentially keeps supplying the thyroid gland with the building materials necessary to keep overproducing.
Diet Plus Treatment
So you've consulted with your vet and found a cat food that offers lots of protein, low carbohydrates and just a hint of iodine. Although this is helpful to keep your cat healthy, it's just one part of his overall treatment. Diet alone will not cure his hyperthyroidism. Until his condition is addressed, he may continue to get worse, despite the proper diet. Surgery, medications and radioactive iodine treatments all work well to treat and even cure hyperthyroidism, helping your cat return to a more normal metabolic rate and lifestyle.
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