Congenital Hypothyroidism in My Kitten

by Jennifer


My name is Jennifer. I love animals. I have many pets and recently my daughter was leaving our house to go play with a friend when she looked down and saw a group of feral cats in our yard surrounding a tiny kitten. They scattered as soon as they saw her and left the kitten there under some brush. My daughter picked the kitten up and brought it to me. I am not really a cat person, so I hesitated to take it in, but realized the kitten was so young that I couldn't just leave it out there hoping the cats would come back and reclaim their offspring.

The kitten appeared to be around 3 weeks old and adorable of course! It had a full mouth of baby teeth but looked way too young to be eating food. I went and bought a kitten bottle and formula and started feeding it every 4 hours around the clock. It slept and pooped like any other baby in the world and it seemed very healthy. I took it in to the vet 2 weeks later and they claimed that it looked like a very healthy kitten but did have a very broad face. They sent me home and told me to do the same thing I had been doing and to keep it up.

Upon our second visit a couple of weeks later they gave him his first set of shots and told me to bring him back in in a couple of weeks for his second round of shots. When I brought him in for his second round of shots the vet told me I needed to consider having him neutered at 6 months. I told her I would when he was old enough and left. I did not take him back in to be neutered until he was 7 months old. When I brought him back in I could see that the doctor was a little curious about how he was put together physically but she went ahead and prepared him for surgery with the usual blood work and standard prepping to be neutered.

Before she began surgery she called me to say that she had gotten his blood work back and everything looked very good but she was a little concerned about some of his features and milestones. She said she would look at all of that after surgery. After surgery she called to say he was extremely lethargic and was coming around much slower than most cats and that he was unusually cold. She said he would not stop shaking. It was at that time I heard the words Congenital Feline Hypothyroidism and that she was going to run some tests on his thyroid before she sent him home.

They kept him overnight and the next day she called to tell me that he did in fact have this very rare disorder. She pointed out many of his dwarf like characteristics and the fact that his permanent teeth would not break through the gums. He could not jump or meow. He was very slow to play and run and he slept a lot. He also had very low thyroid levels when the blood work came back.

I guess not having been around many cats in my life. I was unaware of these abnormalities and just thought that he was a smaller than normal kitten. She put him on hormone replacement thyroid medication and sent him home. He has been on thyroid medication now for almost a month and has improved in many ways. One thing though that he has had trouble with since he began the therapy has been an over stimulation and totally dilated eyes. This went on for 4 or 5 days and finally I cut his thyroid medication down just a bit to see if it would help him. It did and his eyes went back
to normal.

I called the doctor and told her what I had done and she was not happy. She asked me to please bring him back in for additional blood work to see what was going on with his thyroid levels even though he had only been on the meds for a couple of weeks and it was too early to tell how the thyroid was responding. She said his blood work looked great and that she would leave him on the present dose we had him on. I don't really feel that this clinic understands what needs to be done to monitor this animal and all the ramifications that go along with treating him.

My husband and I have been concerned about his eyesight and what the exposer to bright light could do when his eyes are fully dilated. The vet has told me that in the 20 years their practice has been open, they have never had a single case of congenital feline hypothyroidism and how rare it truly is. I would very much like to have him looked at by specialists in this field but they do not want to refer him anywhere. I don't really think he's getting the full benefits of treatment because he has extenuating circumstances due to his medication.

I don't really know what to do. It feels like the blind leading the blind. Don't get me wrong, I love this clinic and I think they've done a great job with him so far, but as I understand it proper treatment is crucial and not always successful but a must if the animal is going to survive. They can not tell me what to look for or what might or might not happen. I very much desire to talk to someone who deals with this all the time. It would be very comforting and educational when trying to deal with his symptoms and this disorder. What should I do? Is there such a specialist out there? does one exist? And if not how do I keep from letting my little Rupert become an experiment or case study within the clinic?

I just don't know enough about side effects and negative things and positive things to look for. Please help me,



Vet Suggestion Regarding Congenital Female Hypothyroidism

Hello Jennifer,

Wow. What a tale! Little Rupert is awfully lucky to have found you for an owner. You are a gem to have stuck with him through his diagnosis and to be searching out the best care for him.

Congenital hypothyroidism is extremely rare. I have seen one case in my career. It is very unlikely that you will find a veterinarian who has treated a large number of these cats and would consider them to be routine cases. That said,the experience and training that an internal medicine specialist accrues over the years definitely puts these veterinarians in the best position to deal with rare or complicated cases.

It sounds like your veterinarian has done a good job with your cat’s diagnosis and treatment. The hyper-excitability and dilated pupils that you describe can be a sign that he is getting too much thyroid hormone, however. I am unsure whether these symptoms should resolve with time or if his dose should be reduced(as I said, I've only seen one case like this!). A specialist could certainly answer this question.

I do not understand why your veterinarian is resisting referring you. A second opinion is always valuable, and the specialist would refer the case back to your regular veterinarian for continued care with the added benefit of being available for consultation should the need arise. If your vet refuses to refer you, you can self-refer. Just make an appointment with the internal medicine specialist of your choice (specialty practices or veterinary schools are your best options) and ask for a copy of your records.

Best of luck,

Jennifer Coates, DVM

Click here to post comments

Join in and write your own page! It's easy to do. How? Simply click here to return to Hypothyroidism.