Elderly cat with hyperthyroidism: euthanasia question

by Melanie
(Medford, NY)

My cat is 18 years old and has been being medicated with Tapazole for feline hyperthyroidism for three years now. The vet has also advised me she had an irregular heartbeat as well.

My cat has gotten very thin these last few years and really hasn't gained any weight back even with the tapazole. Her blood work came back OK last check (which was several months ago) She no longer trims her nails or grooms herself. She throws up several times a day (mostly saliva), she misses the litter box often, and she at times looks unsteady on her feet.

While my cat has not been crying or laboring to breathe, I wonder if it is time to put her down as she looks so frail and weighs only 5 pounds? I keep waiting for her to "let me know" that she is ready, but she doesn't not seem to be in pain. But how do I know for sure?

Dear Melanie,

Going more than a few months for a recheck of your cat's bloodwork, especially at your cat's age and with her cat health problems, would not be advised. Your cat’s thyroid levels will change over time, and the tapazole does not cure your cat’s hyperthyroidism but just controls the level of the hormones being produced.

Your veterinarian should check your cat’s thyroid level and kidney levels at the same time, as well, since as the levels of the thyroid hormone change, your cat’s kidneys can be affected. Also, at her age, it might be wise to do a full bloodwork panel on your cat at her next thyroid recheck. Anemia, potassium deficiencies, and a number of other conditions that may be affecting your cat’s quality of life can be easily treated with vitamins or other feline medications.

If your cat has an irregular heartbeat that has not been controlled with the tapazole, she your cat should likely be on an anti-arrhythmic medication, such as Atenolol, so I would recommend discussing this with your veterinarian as well. If your cat is well-controlled, although she may seem frail, it may not really be time to euthanize yet. Ultimately, the decision is yours, but with a condition as treatable as feline hyperthyroidism, and considering that your cat does not appear to be in any pain and has been doing well on her medication, I would recommend going to a vet and discussing your options and following up with more bloodwork before making that decision.

All the best,
Dr. Neely

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