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Study Update: Feline Hyperthyroidism and Cat Food

Feline hyperthyroidism, a disease common in middle-aged and older cats, is caused by an increase in the amount of hormone produced by the thyroid gland. The amount of thyroid hormone affects the cat’s metabolism rate and organ function. A rapid heart rate, high blood pressure and weight loss are common in cats with hyperthyroidism.

Funded by Morris Animal Foundation, researchers from the University of Georgia are examining whether cat food ingredients play a role in disease development. In the laboratory, the researchers treated feline thyroid cell cultures with various cat food ingredients to determine whether these ingredients stimulate normal thyroid cells. They learned that flavonoids—plant proteins found in commercially available cat food—activate cultured feline thyroid cells as effectively as a cat’s normal thyroid-stimulating hormone. This suggests that flavonoids may interfere with normal thyroid function and be a contributing factor in the development of feline hyperthyroidism. Researchers have to confirm these results by repeating the necessary experiments. Final analysis and results are expected by summer 2013.

If the researchers identify nutritional causes of hyperthyroidism, it is hoped that these compounds can be reduced or avoided in cat food, thus reducing the incidence of disease and improving the lives of cats.

Cynthia R. Ward, VMD, PhD, The University of Georgia

Categories: Cat diseases, Cat health, Feline health, Nutrition
April 15, 2013