In February 2016 it was Nigel’s turn to have his senior workup. Pez, my other senior cat, had already visited the clinic for hers. Digby and Winston, my two adult dogs, also had their checkups. I had left Nigel for last because he seemed the healthiest of the bunch.
The senior life stage package at Martensville Veterinary Hospital bundles together everything that a senior pet should have done annually. This includes:
- Preventative health exam, including the appropriate vaccines and deworming treatments.
- CBC and blood chemistry
- Urinalysis – This helps to confirm findings on the bloodwork, gives an alternative view of how well the liver and kidneys are functioning, and allows early detection of underlying disease such as urinary crystals or urinary tract infection.
- Radiographs – Show not only boney changes but soft tissue changes as well.
I brought Nigel to work with me and we got started collecting samples. Nigel was quite cooperative so we got the required samples quickly. We started running the tests through our in-house lab equipment and moved on to the radiographs.
I pointed out, to the vet, that Nigel had been hesitant to jump as much as he once would. I had needed to create some makeshift stairs so that he could get to his food dish, which is kept on desk to keep the dogs from getting it. She decided that we should do a chest series to make sure there were no changes to the heart or lungs, and also a hip series to assess any changes that might explain the changes in his jumping abilities. Once we had taken the radiographic images, the vet took a look. The chest series showed no abnormalities, unfortunately, the hips were a different story. Nigel has arthritis. This was the first diagnosis to come from his senior workup.
Later that day, the vet went through the results of Nigel’s lab samples with me. CBC and blood chemistry were unremarkable. The T4, however, showed that Nigel’s thyroid hormones were on the high end of normal. This was something that we should definitely watch. It was decided that we would retest him in a few months.
I started to notice things at home. Nigel, who never before liked people food, became a meal time nuisance. He was always trying to get near the food dishes, jumping onto our laps despite his arthritis, pawing at us, and when offered some meat from our plates he would devour it. He started to hover near the dog food dishes and when they were fed he would sneak in and steal their food. There were other behavioral changes as well. He had always been a talkative cat but in the months following his workup he became intolerable. It was like someone had increased his volume and added a distorter. He started to have “fits” in the middle of the night where he would yell and howl. His behavior changed towards my other cat as well. Nigel and Pez had always gotten along in the past, other than their occasional spat which would happen every month or two. Suddenly, every couple of days he was fighting with her.
A ravenous appetite is one of the clinical signs of hyperthyroidism, as is weight loss and hyper excitability – the primary function of the thyroid gland is metabolism control. I had waited long enough; it was time to have him retested. In June 2016, I brought Nigel back in to work with me. We took a blood sample and ran another T4 test. When the results were in they were no surprise. He was no longer on the high end of normal; he was way above normal. Nigel was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism.