Is 18 years old to old to treat a disease?

Our question this week was:

I have an elderly cat (18-years-old) that was just diagnosed with hyperthyroidism. She will NOT take the pills without a huge struggle. She has lost all interest in food although she is taking water well. The question is, given her advanced age, is how much to put her through to treat this. Pilling her twice a day is way too stressful for her. Radiocat requires chest x-rays which require sedation, which has it’s own risks. On the other hand, we can’t just sit and watch her starve to death either. Aside from arthritis, she is an otherwise healthy cat, though she has slowed down dramatically with increasing age. We are confirmed quality over quantity people, and have quietly begun to talk about taking her for one last vet trip. Does this seems the way to go here – or is there more we can be doing?


Lisa Thompson


Hi – thanks for your email. This is a difficult question but I’ll try to answer the best I can. It would be easier to make a decision if you knew how she would do and how long she is going to live. If you knew she would do great and have 2 more quality years, the decision would be easy. If you knew she wouldn’t respond or would die of an unrelated condition in a few months, maybe you couldn’t. There is no crystal ball.

This is my opinion. If a cat is otherwise healthy and has hyperthyroidism, I think treating it is the way to go. Pilling some cats can be very difficult which makes Radiocat a very good option.

If this was my cat, I’d do blood work to make sure the kidneys and the rest of her seems to be okay. I’d use the Thyroid medication for a while and repeat bloodwork to make sure the kidneys are still okay.

Providing all is well, I’d do the Radiocat procedure. What do you have to loose? There is no guarantees here but I’ve seen many cats do great.

An article that might be helpful to you is Hyperthyroidism in Cats.

Best of luck!

Dr. Debra