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Thyroid and Glaucoma Awareness Month: What to Watch for and How to Help

Glaucoma and thyroid disease in cats and dogs are becoming more predominant as studies are showing that the life expectancy of our pets has increased in current years. While both diseases are common to the aging animal, some breeds are predisposed to these ailments. Early detection through regular vet visits is always the first step with the progression of any degenerative disease. Here are a few things you need to know about both diseases in order to provide a longer and happier life for your pet.


According to Cornell College of Veterinary Medicine, Glaucoma in its earliest stages can exhibit as a red eye or cause your pet to squint in an unusual way. Other symptoms may include visible whiteness in the cornea, tearing, loss of sight, and pain. “Glaucoma occurs when fluid cannot drain properly from the eye, causing increased intraocular pressure (IOP). Prolonged high IOP can damage the optic nerve and result in blindness.” Glaucoma usually begins in one eye, but may eventually occur in the other. Primary glaucoma is breed-related, with Burmese and Siamese cats most susceptible; Chihuahuas, Siberians, Spaniels, Terriers, and various other dog breeds having a high susceptibility as well. Secondary glaucoma can be caused by inflammation, FIV and toxoplasmosis in cats; cancer and cataracts in both cats and dogs. When caught early, progression of glaucoma can be slowed with treatment.

Thyroid Disease

According to VCA Animal Hospital, it is the thyroid gland that regulates the body's metabolic rate. An underactive thyroid produces hypothyroidism, which causes metabolism to slow down.

An overactive thyroid produces hyperthyroidism, which will elevate the body's metabolism. The causes for contracting hyperthyroidism are unknown, but Cornell states that diet deficiencies and/or “chronic exposure to thyroid disrupting chemicals in food or the environment” are possible contributing factors.

While Hyperthyroidism is common in middle-aged and senior cats, hypothyroidism in cats is rare, especially congenial (from birth). Other forms of hypothyroidism can be caused from a deteriorated thyroid gland or from excessive corrective hyperthyroid medication, cites PetMD. Much information provided shows that hypothyroidism in cats may be transitory, and will eventually correct itself, but in some cases when it does not, treatment will be needed for life.

Signs of hypothyroidism in cats and dogs include (but are not limited to) lethargy or severe tiredness, inability to tolerate the cold, weight gain without appetite change, various changes to coat and balding, skin and ear infection increase, and eye cornea fat deposits.

The more common hyperthyroidism presents itself in both cats and dogs by an overactive appetite combined with a skinny appearance. If your pet is a grazer, you might not catch it right away, or until they drastically start losing weight. Increased thirst, frequent urination, and vomiting are some of the other symptoms of which you may become aware, while rapid heart rate and enlarged thyroid glands may not be so obvious. Blood tests and urinalysis can determine the presence and severity of thyroid disease. Treatments vary depending upon symptoms, severity of disease, and willingness of the pet owner. Treatments are usually out of office, but will most often consist of a life-long program of medication and/or dietary modification.

What can you do to help?

With both diseases, early detection is the best way to help your pet. Knowing your breed’s predisposition to certain diseases and regular health checks for your middle-aged and senior pets can affect the longevity of their life as well as quality. If your pet is vocal, you may notice more or less vocalization as their discomfort or disorientation changes in how they navigate their environment. Daily interaction, petting, and observation will keep you in tune with your pet, its disposition, and any sudden changes that may occur.

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