The Veterinary Centre

Henley and Twyford

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Case Notes: Prudence: Cat with Hyperthyroidism
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Prudence is rarely seen here at The Veterinary Centre, unlike her brother Bertie who is all too regular a visitor!. Apart from a spot of flea allergic dermatitis from time to time, and some major dentistry a couple of years ago, she has enjoyed robust good health all her life. Her owner thought she would take advantage of our newly initiated “Fit for Life” clinics to get her a thorough check-up, now that she is approaching her fifteenth Birthday. Photo:

Prudence was examined from nose to tail by our Head Nurse Sarah Whittaker and was found to be generally in very good health for her age. She was showing early signs of her flea allergy flaring up again, she had a bit or arthritic stiffness in one elbow for which a glucosamine supplement was advised, and she was perhaps a little on the thin side having lost 0.3kg since her weight was last recorded 18 months ago. She proved an uncooperative patient in only two particulars – she purred so loudly that Sarah was unable to auscultate her heart properly and she flatly declined to provide us with a urine sample!

In view of the fact that we lacked all the useful information a urine sample would have provided, it was agreed that a blood sample should be taken and Prudence made no objection to this at all. The blood results were available within hours and showed only one abnormality – her blood urea level was slightly higher than the normal range for a cat of her age. This could be an early warning sign of reduced kidney function or it could indicate reduced circulation through the kidneys, if the heart was not pumping as efficiently as it should. We then decided that we really had to get a urine sample from Prudence to distinguish between these two. We eventually achieved this by admitting her for several hours until her bladder had filled sufficiently that we could get a sample by cystocentesis.

The urine was very well concentrated (specific gravity 1.050) which suggested that the kidneys were actually functioning very well so we started to concentrate on her heart. We still could not stop her purring for long enough to establish whether she had a heart murmur but we could hear that it was beating abnormally fast and this often leads to inefficient pumping of blood. Above about 180 beats per minute the chambers within the heart do not have sufficient time to fill completely before they are emptying again and so each beat moves less blood than it should and circulation is therefore poorer. A common cause of an overfast heart or “tacchycardia” in elderly cats is hyperthyroidism (an overactive thyroid gland) so we then tested Prudence's thyroid levels on the remaining blood that we had collected earlier. Bingo - we had our diagnosis!

Prudence is now on a small tablet twice a day to control her thyroid hormone levels. This should control her metabolic rate and thereby bring down her heart rate and so increase cardiac efficiency. Thus we hope her heart muscle will not get prematurely worn out by overwork, her kidneys will work better and last longer because of improved circulation through them and she should regain her lost weight and body condition.


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Henley Vets and Twyford Vets
The Veterinary Centre: 271 Reading Road, Henley-on-Thames, RG9 1EL - Phone 01491 574490
Also at Twycombe Lodge, Loddon Hall Road, Twyford, RG10 9JA - Phone 0118 934 0259