For his entire life, Armand and his caregiver were counseled that he should weigh a bit less. He was not a busy cat by nature, preferring to cozy up to a lap and a blazing fire in the hearth. He would play of course but only when he was in the mood. Jenna, his caregiver and all round favorite person had tried to get him to eat a canned food diet to reduce the carbohydrates he consumed. However, he had been an adult when she adopted him and had been fed dry food prior to coming to her. He had ideas about aroma and “mouth feel” that meant that canned food just did not seem like food to him. He would push the bowl around the counter he ate on, often until it landed on the kitchen flood, much to Jenna’s exasperation.
Small frequent meals helped as did Jenna’s commitment to getting him more active. Over time he lost 2 pounds and was declared only a “little chubby”. Fast forward 2 years and it was just about Armand’s 11th birthday, or thereabouts, the exact day was unknown. Time had gone by so quickly that Jenna got a call from Chico Hospital for Cats that he was 18 months overdue for a check up. Jenna sighed, thinking that he had been seen by his veterinarian only a few months prior. She made an appointment and gleefully reported that the staff would all be delighted by how slender Armand had gotten recently.
Later that week, the visit did not go as Jenna had expected. Armand’s veterinarian told her that his weight was down more than should be anticipated and worse yet that he had a very rapid heart rate for a cat and his blood pressure was elevated. Tests were recommended and when they came back Jenna got a call that all was not well.
In the 18 months since Armand had been in, his thyroid gland had begun to produce too much hormone. This is an important hormone that takes iodine and adds it to an amino acid. When the combination is released in the blood it governs metabolism. Metabolism is the conversion of oxygen and calories from our diet into energy. Just enough thyroid hormone and the body hums along quite nicely. However, when the thyroid grows bigger than it should and produces more hormone, it can be very hard on the body. Heart rate becomes abnormally high, kidneys are injured, blood pressure increases and usually after a time weight loss is accompanied by a significant loss of muscle. In cats the loss of muscle is a very serious sign of more imminent mortality.
Dr. Elise, Armand’s veterinarian discussed the different options for treatment which, like everything in life, has plusses and minuses. The two most common choices were an oral pill or absorbed cream that would be given to Armand twice a day for the rest of his life or an injection of radioactive iodine (I-131).
The advantages of the medication were fewer than its disadvantages in Jenna’s mind. Lifelong meant no breaks for vacation or travel, someone would always have to be there to administer it or Armand would have to board where it could be done.