Unknown before the 1970s, hyperthyroidism is now a common ailment in cats. Homeopathy is an effective alternative to conventional treatments.
Hyperthyroidism is the most commonly diagnosed endocrine disorder of cats, mostly in those over eight years old. Also called thyrotoxicosis, it was first reported in 1979, and not recognized as a clinical entity before that time. In fact, hyperthyroidism was totally unknown in the 1960s, although it is now one of the most common ailments in older cats. The condition is usually due to a benign tumor of the thyroid gland (adenoma), and is rarely a malignant carcinoma. Vaccines and toxins are potential causes/triggers. Vaccines produce immune dysfunction or confusion, with tumor growth as a possible outcome, while toxins such as mercury in the food chain, as well as fire retardant chemicals, are known to affect the thyroid gland.
THE THYROID GLAND
The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped, bilobed gland situated behind the trachea at variable distances from the larynx. It produces thyroid hormone, a major regulatory hormone involved in metabolism.
SYMPTOMS OF HYPERTHYROIDISM
Hyperthyroid cats tend to be thin and losing weight, despite a ravenous appetite. Many times, people notice their cats seem to have “kitten-like” energy again, something they haven’t seen for years. As the disease progresses, the cat’s appetite can vary, and vomiting and/or diarrhea may occur, similar to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). The cat may seem jittery and hyperactive, with a rapid heart rate often over 180 beats per minute, along with increased thirst and urination. Panting and fever can appear in some cats. Early in the disease process, the thyroid hormone level maybe normal, and an enlarged thyroid gland may not yet be palpable. It’s usually the increased appetite, weight loss, and increased energy or hyperactivity that make us suspect hyperthyroidism.
WHY CATS AND NOT DOGS?
Hyperthyroidism rarely occurs in dogs. In fact, the most common problem in canines is the opposite condition— hypothyroidism, which is mostly due to autoimmune thyroiditis. In cats, the thyroid gland produces excess hormone. It appears to be an immune-mediated disorder (think vaccinosis), resulting in a benign productive thyroid tumor, which is often unilateral. It is most common in mature cats.
No one is really sure why cats are more prone to hyperthyroidism and dogs to low thyroid function, but from a homeopathic perspective, it probably comes down to susceptibility and miasmatic disease patterns.
In one study of 270 senior cats (over eight years old), the most common health complaints were kidney disease, hyperthyroidism, arthritis, and overgrooming. Interesting note — all these problems can be attributed to immune dysfunction (vaccinosis again!). In this study group, the majority of cats responded to homeopathic treatment, with almost 67% of the hyperthyroid cats showing positive responses to various remedies.
In any discussion of hyperthyroid treatment for cats, conventional options are usually presented: medicine(methimazole), surgery (thyroidectomy), or radioactive Iodinetreatment (I-131).
•Methimazole blocks the production of thyroid hormone, with common side effects in most cats, so is not a desirable option in my opinion.
•Surgery can be an excellent option, in my experience. The disease is often unilateral, so partial thyroidectomy can be followed with homeopathic treatment to address the underlying imbalance. The surgery is minimally invasive, quickly performed with practice, and fairly atraumatic to the cat. I’ve performed many of these surgeries with good outcomes on cats as old as 19 years. So age is not always a limiting factor in determining the surgical risk for these cats.
• I-131 is very expensive, and the cat becomes temporarily radioactive and must be quarantined for seven to ten days in a radiation-approved facility (stressful for both the cat and the client).
As with any other type of therapy, each individual must consider the pros and cons. Some have great success and satisfaction with medical and radioactive iodine treatments. But as an integrative practitioner, I urge you to consider alternative options to treat this disorder — especially homeopathy, my favorite.
HOMEOPATHY FOR HYPERTHYROIDISM
Homeopathy can help restore health in a gentle way, and the literature offers many suggested remedies. Hyperthyroidism is a complex chronic disease, and an experienced homeopathic veterinarian should be consulted for guidance. Different authors and practitioners list various remedies as being helpful.
DIET AND SUPPLEMENTS
Good food is a key aspect in dealing with any chronic disease, as are minimal vaccines. (All vets should heed the advice of drug inserts included with each container of vaccine, stating “only use in healthy animals.” This statement alone disqualifies many animals from ever getting another vaccine!)
• A fresh, minimally processed diet is ideal.
• Enzymes added to the food are helpful.
• Kelp and seaweed tend to normalize thyroid function.
• Vegetables in the Brassica family help slow thyroid function (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale, turnips). These are also available in dehydrated capsule form to mix with food.
Dr. Don Hamilton gives this case example in his book, Homeopathy for Dogs & Cats:
Sheba was a nine-year-old femaleSiamese mixed cat. One week after receiving vaccine boosters at her regular vet, she stopped eating and developed a rapid heart rate. The vet suspected hyperthyroidism, but Sheba’s blood work was normal.
Dr. Hamilton gave her one dose of Thuja (a key vaccinosis remedy), which reversed her appetite and heartbeat problems. In fact, her health was better than before she became ill.
Clearly, the vaccines were a factor here, though it is not always so obvious. The damage often appears long after the vaccine.
1) Dr. Richard Pitcairn lists the following in his well-known book, Dr. Pitcairn’s Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs & Cats. With each of the following remedies, here commends trying one dose and waiting a month.
a. Iodium 30c (or higher) — cats needing this remedy have big appetites, but still lose weight and become very thin. They tend to be hypersensitive or restless. Chronic diarrhea and/or kidney disease often occur at the same time.
b. Lycopodium 30c (or higher) — these cats are not big eaters, and seem to eat small amounts at a time, or hover over the food dish as if thinking about eating. There is a tendency to cystitis, with crystals, sand or stones forming in the urine. Most tend to be thin with a dry coat that stands up, and they seek warmth. They’re weaker in the morning.
c. Phosphorus 30c (or higher) — cats needing this remedy tend to be thin and anxious, but become more mellow as they get sicker. They sleep more, and don’t seem as interested in their surroundings as before. They tend to vomit easily, often five to ten minutes after eating or drinking. They’re usually more sensitive to noise or movement, sometimes becoming hard of hearing or deaf as they age.
2. British homeopathic vets Peter Gregory and John Saxton list the following remedies in their book Textbook of Veterinary Homeopathy. They typically recommend 30c or 200c twice weekly with most remedies.
a. Spongia — useful for a combination of respiratory symptoms and glandular swellings (thyroid).
b. Natrum phos (sodium phosphate) — falls between the two extremes of Natrum muriaticum (emotionally closed) and Phosphorus (affection/closeness). Could be helpful in some cats showing these mental/emotional signs.
c. Iodium (again) — the cat tends to be heat intolerant, worse in damp conditions, and is active and on the go. May be anxious. Marked emaciation with good/ravenous appetite is evident, as are muscle weakness and poor coat quality.
d. Natrum muriaticum — weight loss is an aspect of this remedy picture, with increased thirst, urination, and an emotionally closed personality.
3. Dr. Peter Dobias reported positive results in eight of 13 cats using single doses of Natrum muriaticum200c, so this is a very good potential remedy(Homeopathy 2011; 100(04): 270-274).
4. Dr. Sara Fox Chapman reported symptom resolution in four out of four cats using individual homeopathic remedy prescribing. The nosode Thyroidinum helped one of the four cats.
5. Other remedies used successfully for feline hyperthyroidism include:
a. Silicea 30c (or higher) – this remedy is listed under “External throat; goiter” in Kent’s repertory (“goiter” being the older term for“enlarged thyroid gland”). Calcarea carbonic and Spongia are also listed in higher grade under this rubric.
b. Lachesis — helpful in cases of left-sided thyroid enlargement. Any of these remedies could be tried, based on the symptom totality. Give the cat a single dose and wait at least a month to gauge the response, before switching remedies.
Hyperthyroidism is a relatively recent disease of cats— not just previously misdiagnosed, but nonexistent prior to the 1970s. It is a dangerous illness, and hard to treat. Conventional treatment options are potentially harmful, often with long-term repercussions. Homeopathy is a better alternative to conventional treatment.
To learn more, find a homeopathic veterinarian at www.theAVH.org.