Good grief – why is feline hyperthyroidism so common these days? Is there anything we can do about it on the natural end of the spectrum?
As your fellow concerned cat lover, let me share the most useful insights and resources I’ve unearthed about all this, including which foods appear to be the safest bet.
This disease is one of the top reasons cats end up at the vet now, and we really want to avoid the dangerous weight loss and heart problems associated with it.
Meeting the elephant: a link to canned cat food?
Canned cat food and feline hyperthyroidism: some researchers suggest a link. What’s going on here and what to do?
We love wet food for how it protects cat kidney and urinary health, so we need canned food options we don’t have to worry about.
It appears the first suspect in canned food is a substance used to line many cans: Bisphenol A (BPA). It’s classified as an endocrine disrupter by the Environmental Protection Agency. There’s a serious movement to get it out of human foods.
In 2004 the Epidemiologic study of relationships between consumption of commercial canned food and risk of hyperthyroidism in cats, noted the following:
- Consumption of canned (vs dry) food at various times throughout life was significantly linked to a greater risk of feline hyperthyroidism. The risk increases as cats get older.
- Rodent studies confirmed that BPA “interference with triiodothyronine binding may lead to…increased thyroid hormone production.” In other words, hyperthyroidism.
Other studies, including the 2009 study, Risk factors for feline hyperthyroidism in the UK, had similar conclusions.
A 2007 study also looked at the possibility of the endocrine disrupting PBDE, a flame retardant, playing a role in the rise of hyperthyroidism in cats. PBDEs are found in particularly high concentrations in larger fish higher up the food chain, like salmon and whitefish, according this ScienceDaily article.
PBDE appears to be less prevalent in wild salmon than farmed salmon, thank goodness.
Just a guess: It may be that these two chemicals together, even more than one alone, increase risk.
Dealing with the elephant: smarter canned options
Because wet food is so much better for our cats’ kidney and urinary health, we are sticking with it.
So to decrease the threat of feline hyperthyroidism, here’s what we do:
- We buy only BPA-free canned cat food. The Today’s best cat foods page now specifies which cans are BPA-free. Also, all the frozen and raw packages are BPA-free – they aren’t in cans.
- To avoid PBDEs, we feed “large fish” cat food no more than 1 -2 times per week on average. When we do serve large fish, we choose something from Tikicat because they favor clean, ecological sources of fish.
When I have time, I also make carefully formulated homemade cat food part of our cat’s diet. (Not too often lately.)
Resources if your cat is diagnosed with feline hyperthyroidism
Online support group:
- The yahoo group, feline-hyperT. Very active group.
Recognizing symptoms and understanding treatment options
- Hyperthyroidism in Cats by Drs. Foster and Smith. Clear writing with handy tables! Good for grasping the pros and cons.
- Homeopathic Treatment of Feline Hyperthyroidism: Homeopathic vet Peter Dobias explains a study demonstrating success with homeopathic treatment. You may wish to contact him for more information.
- Dr. Karen Becker’s Feline Hyperthyroidism article: She outlines the conventional options, but advises we should preventatively check thyroid levels after age 10 so that if you catch it early enough you can try a more gentle alternative like homeopathy first.
- You may also want to examine an herbal remedy called Resthyro. I don’t know much about it, so this is something to talk to your vet about. There are reports of it helping with symptoms – increasing weight gain and calm – but it’s unclear whether it actually changes the bloodwork results for any cats. For example, here’s one blogger’s story.
If you have other good resources, if your cat has had success with any treatments, or if you have cautionary tales that could help others, I hope you’ll share here.