An epidemic of hyperthyroidism in cats and what it means for you

Hyperthyroid cat(aka Tigre)

Hyperthyroid cat
(aka Tigre)

Yesterday I received an email from a vet to which I recently took my cat, Tigre. The email was requesting participants for a study being conducted by the state of California’s Department of Toxic Substances- they are looking for the cause of the epidemic of cats being diagnosed with hyperthyroidism. Tigre had heart failure last May and almost died. So far as the vets and I have been able to determine, his heart failure was a result of hyperthyroidism.

You can read a basic synopsis of feline hyperthyroidism (HT) here:

I had known something was not right with Tigre for a few months because he had become increasingly thin while eating a ton of food. However, he was extremely active- running around the apartment, yowling, acting crazy- which led me to believe he was pretty much ok. I mean, how could such an active and crazy cat be sick? It turns those are common  symptoms of an overactive thyroid. And unfortunately, when left untreated, HT can lead to a host of other diseases, including certain kinds of heart disease and heart failure.  Heart disease occurs because when the thyroid produces too much hormone, it speeds up all the body’s processes, including the heart rate,  causing additional stress on the heart muscle, which can eventually lead to heart failure.

After he was diagnosed with HT, I began looking further into the disease. I joined a Yahoo group for owners of HT cats which is an amazing resource; in fact, it seems many of those people are better informed on the disease than most vets.  But the number of people joining that group and the number of posts it receives on a daily basis is quite extraordinary. It leads one to wonder- has there always been so many HT cats but they went undiagnosed, or is there truly an increase in the numbers of cats becoming HT?

Well, apparently it’s the latter. For years there has been speculation that HT in cats may be caused by environmental and dietary factors.  Primarily certain toxins in the home or diet.  It seems that housecats are most prone to HT, which may indicate that chemicals found in the home are disrupting cat’s endocrinological system.  Since cats are much smaller than humans, have faster metabolisms and  are closer to the ground, they may be more susceptible to the effects of toxins in home.

(Flame retardants causing HT in cats?)

(See “Why Did My Cat Develop Hyperthyroidism?”)

(Looking at connection between canned cat food and cat litter)

(environmental factors)

So what does this have to do with you if you don’t have or even like cats? Well let’s see…you’re probably exposed to all the same chemicals as these cats if you live in the U.S.  And apparently the State of California feels that the epidemic of HT in cats may be evidence of a threat to human health as well.   So they are conducting a study in which they test blood samples of the affected cats, samples of dust from the household in which the HT cat resides, as well as questions about the cat’s diet and other relevant factors.

Here’s info on the study:

We will be participating.  I  don’t know about you, but I find it rather scary that cats are getting this disease in such high numbers, and it may be caused by something to which I am also exposed all the time.

Even if it’s from canned food and not substances in the home environment, that’s scary. I eat canned food sometimes. Do you?

So even though cats are known for their disinterest in human affairs, it seems they may help us in the long run.

So why does this happen? There are many theories. But one thing that is for sure is that the number of cats diagnosed with hyperthyroid


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