A member of our Sharon Lakes Animal Hospital staff recently received a surprising diagnosis for her cat. Her experience is one I thought fellow feline parents would appreciate. So, please welcome our “guest blogger” — Kim Winslow, Reception Supervisor & Registered Veterinary Technician. Here is her story:
I’ve owned my 9 1/2 year old cat, Ghirardelli, since she was barely two months old. She’s always been very healthy and has had a normal indoor, spoiled rotten cat lifestyle over the years. Given my professional background (working as a veterinary technician for more than ten years and currently as a veterinary receptionist), I have been sure to provide the best healthcare possible for her by having her examined by a vet twice a year, keeping her on heartworm preventative, feeding her a quality diet, and, of course, keeping her vaccinations up to date. All this is in addition to the TLC provided by my own family! I have always been very confident that I would notice if ANY health changes occurred in one of my cats, no matter how subtle the signs. After all, even though I’m well aware that cats are masters at hiding any illness, I have a trained eye and helping sick pets has been my lifelong career! So how did I miss this?
I had absolutely NO reason to suspect that Delli’s routine wellness exam and annual senior labwork in early September would show anything other than perfect health. I was taking very good care of her at home, and she seemed perfectly normal to me. I had no idea I was missing anything.
When Dr. Moore was examining Delli, she noted a weight loss of 1.5 pounds since her last exam. That’s a significant amount of weight for a cat to lose in 6 months! I was surprised, because Delli didn’t look or feel any different to me, and she’d been eating quite well at home. Dr. Moore recommended checking her thyroid level with the rest of her annual labwork. A Thyroid test is always recommended for cats 10 and older, but while Delli wasn’t at that age yet, this weight loss worried me, so we did the test!
The next day, Dr. Moore told me that Delli’s thyroid level was 10.4. I was SHOCKED, considering that the normal range is 0.8 – 4.0, and last year Delli’s level was 2.2. What a difference in just a year! Dr. Moore started her on thyroid medication right away.
Hyperthyroidism is a common disease in middle aged to older cats. It is a condition in which the thyroid gland becomes overactive, producing excessive amounts of thyroid hormones. The symptoms are weight loss, increased appetite, vomiting, behavoir changes, and changes in hair/coat. Again, I saw NONE of these signs.
I cannot stress enough the importance of twice yearly physical exams for our pets — I always knew this was important, but now I truly understand why. They age so much faster than we do, many potentially serious illnesses show very subtle signs in the early stages (especially in cats!), and our pets cannot tell us when they don’t feel well or something is not “right” with them. If I hadn’t taken Delli to see Dr. Moore for her semi-annual exam, the weight loss would have gone undetected, we would not have run a thyroid test, and she would have eventually become very sick. I’m not thrilled that she has this condition, but I’m talking with a local specialist about a cure (which involves radiation) because Delli is still “young” and we caught her condition, thankfully, before she became too ill.
I really hope my story will help another cat (or dog) & it’s owner avoid a serious illness through preventive care.