Today we are going to delve into the mystery of Tevie and her ravenous appetite.

Tevie is a 12-year-old cat and lives indoors with Mindy in what Mindy describes as a relative life of luxury. Tevie's routine is well established - or at least had been until about two months ago. That was the point when she began waking Mindy at wee hours of the morning with highly audible vocalizations that Mindy finally determined to be howling for food.

It was normal for Tevie to be fed twice daily, first around 7 a.m. before Mindy went to work and then again around 6:30 p.m. This had been the feeding routine for all of Tevie's 12 years until now.

There are a couple of diseases that immediately come to my mind when I hear a scenario such as Tevie's. The first is diabetes mellitus and the second is feline hyperthyroidism. Neither entirely fits with Mandy's description of Tevie's symptoms but it may be because she has left something out of that description.

With diabetes in cats, caretakers will commonly note a huge increase in appetite. Ironically, along with the appetite increase, there is weight loss in the patient. Another common symptom is a massive increase in water consumption and thus urination. Other than ravenous appetite, these symptoms were not described by Mindy in reference to Tevie.

Hyperthyroidism in cats is commonly associated with a tremendous increase in appetite and over time, weight loss as well. This is because the excess thyroid hormone being produced by a tumor in one or both of the thyroid glands in an affected cat causes an increase in the metabolic rate, thus the increas-ed appetite.

The increase in metabolism however is greater than the cat's ability to eat enough to keep up its weight, hence the weight loss over the course of the disease.

Both diabetes and hyperthyroidism are fatal in cats if left untreated.

Treatment however is available for both. Cats with diabetes are usually managed with insulin therapy as this disease is caused by a lack of insulin production from the pancreas. Therapy is usually a lifelong endeavor.

Cats with hyperthyroidism can be completely cured. There are two accepted methods toward that goal. One is surgical removal of the thyroid tumor or tumors. In the hands of an experienced veterinary surgeon, this procedure is an excellent choice as the cats can usually go home the same day of the surgery and be cured.

Another method of cure involves the use of radioactive iodine, I-131, which is given by injection. The iodine is selectively taken up by the active thyroid tumor, which is destroyed as a result. This procedure has to be done in a special facility and the cats are required to stay several days post treatment to allow the radiation levels to drop.

In Tevie's case, I am betting on hyperthyroidism as the cause for her tremendous appetite.

This is primarily because Mindy did not mention the increased thirst or increased urination associated with diabetes. These are both such profound symptoms that I have to believe Mindy would have mentioned if they were occurring.

Is the mystery solved?

It will be once Mindy takes Tevie to her veterinarian for a physical exam and some blood work.

Both diabetes and hyperthyroidism can be diagnosed with simple blood work.

(Jeff Kahler is a veterinarian in Modesto, Calif. Questions can be submitted to Your Pet in care of LifeStyles, The Modesto Bee, P.O. Box 5256, Modesto, Calif. 95352)

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