Mountain View Animal Hospital is the home of The Feline Hyperthyroid Treatment Center of Utah. We have been treating hyperthyroid cats with radioactive iodine since 1998. The Center was opened by Dr. Tim Hassinger, and is now being run by Dr. Kanda Hazelwood. It is located in Sandy, Utah in the Salt Lake Valley serving Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, Montana and western Nevada. Since 1998 we have treated and cared for hundreds of cats with hyperthyroidism. Our first dose success rate is over 97%. We are proud of our hospital, our staff and the personalized care we offer.
What is feline hyperthyroidism? This is a disease that generally affects middle-age and older cats. It results in an increased production of thyroid hormones from a benign (noncancerous) tumor in the thyroid gland called an adenoma. Rarely, the tumor can be malignant. The high levels of thyroid hormone can have adverse effects on other organ systems. Hyperthyroidism, if left untreated can lead to heart and/or kidney failure or death.
SYMPTOMS OF HYPERTHYROIDISM
Clinical signs of feline hyperthyroidism result from an increased metabolic rate. Like many diseases, the signs of feline hyperthyroidism can be subtle at first. Often, owners are pleased to see some weight loss in overweight cats, but soon notice that the weight loss is excessive and happens in spite of a ravenous appetite. Other common problems seen at home can include vomiting, increased water consumption, increased urination, behavioral changes like irritability and hyperactivity, and changes in hair coat. The hair coat can appear unkempt and oily. While it is true that most hyperthyroid animals eat ravenously, a small percentage feel sick and have a decreased appetite.
DIAGNOSIS OF HYPERTHYROIDISM
The diagnosis of feline hyperthyroidism is made by a veterinarian, using a combination of physical exam and diagnostic testing. A complete physical exam is an important first step. Often an enlarged thyroid gland can be felt in the neck area. The increased thyroid hormone can cause a fast heart rate and a heart murmur. While the physical exam may suggest a thyroid problem, a blood chemistry including thyroid hormone level, complete blood count and a urinalysis can help to confirm the disease. T4 level are the most helpful and are usually elevated when hyperthyroidism is present. Occasionally, additional tests may be required for a definitive diagnosis. Remember, as we stated previously, thyroid hormone can affect many organ systems. The comprehensive exam including blood work and urinalysis, are important for a successful outcome.
The options for successful treatment of hyperthyroidism are limited. The three treatments available are medical management, surgery, and radioactive iodine. There is probably not one treatment that is right for every cat in every situation. Each treatment has advantages and disadvantages and their use will depend on the individual circumstances. Alterations to heart and kidney function are two important considerations.
Medication can be used to lower the T4 level circulating in the blood stream. Generally the medication must be given twice a day and side effects can be difficult to manage including anorexia, vomiting, an itchy face, lack of energy, and fever. The medication does not cure the disease, but it does treat the symptoms and is needed for a lifetime. Many feel that medical therapy does not protect the heart from ongoing heart damage. The medication is relatively inexpensive and easily obtained. Additional costs include periodic blood work that monitors the effect of the medication on the thyroid hormone level and kidney function. One of the most difficult aspects of medical therapy is the lifelong administration of pills or liquid, which can interrupt your relationship with your cat. At first glance medical management can seem less expensive but yearly exams, blood tests, and continued medicine cost up to 750$/year and medical therapy does not cure the tumor so it continues to grow.
Surgical removal of the thyroid gland is another option. Removal of the gland is curative. One complication is that fact that thyroid tissue can be found in abnormal areas and thyroid nodules can’t always be felt, so one or more may be missed. Additionally, nodules too small to be felt would be missed. Unfortunately, the general anesthesia or surgery may result in added risks to the patient. Most hyperthyroid cats are older and the thyroid disease can cause problems with the heart and kidneys as well as other organ systems making them poor anesthetic candidates. Another potential complication is compromise or accidental removal of the parathyroid glands that are located close to the thyroid gland. Removing both parathyroid glands can result in death of the cat.
Radioactive iodine is the treatment of choice for hyperthyroid cats. It provides the best results with the fewest side effects. A small amount of radioactive iodine (I-131) is injected into the patient. The I-131 is concentrated in the diseased portion of the thyroid gland and the radiation destroys the nodule leaving the normal tissue healthy. In a short time, usually within a couple weeks, the normal tissue resumes T4 production and blood levels go back to normal. This procedure results in a cure with a success rate greater than 95%. The treatment has almost no serious side effects and does not make the patients ill. Observation has shown us that the patients usually act like they feel better within a couple days. The State of Utah requires that our patients stay until their radiation levels reach an acceptable level (generally 5 to 10 days depending on the I-131 dose). Those rare thyroid tumors that do not respond to the initial dose can be retreated at a reduced cost.
The Hyperthyroid Treatment Center of Utah uses a standard protocol with all the hyperthyroid patients that are referred to us. We ask the referring doctor to fax any pertinent blood work or history. Owners are encouraged to talk directly with Dr. Kanda prior to scheduling the treatment. Next we schedule an appointment with Dr. Kanda. During the appointment the patient is given a physical exam and there will be time for you to ask any questions you may have. You will be asked to leave the patient for diagnostic testing that will include blood testing, urinalysis, blood pressure measurement, and an EKG. The patient will stay with us overnight. Considering all the information we have collected, the appropriate dose of I-131 will be ordered and administered. The patients will be monitored with 24-hour hands-on nursing care from our caring staff. Daily phone calls with progress reports will be provided by our thyroid technicians. Testing to meet the release criteria will begin 5 days after the I-131 was given. Patients are released when they meet radiation level criteria previously established by the state of Utah, usually in 5 to 10 days.
HOME CARE AFTER TREATMENT
There are a few rules that are required by the state that need to be followed when your kitty gets home. They must remain indoors for 2 weeks. They also have some contact restrictions. There can be no contact of any kind for pregnant women for 28 days or children under the age of 18 for 14 days. Other persons should minimize contact for 14 days but brief periods of contact are acceptable. Cat litter can be disposed of normally and other animals in the house can interact without restriction.
WEBSITES FOR MORE INFORMATION
Mountain View Animal Hospital
9414 South 1335 East
Sandy Utah, 84092