Excuse Me, Ma’am, but Your Cat Is Glowing…  All About Radioactive Iodine Treatment

Hyperthyroidism is a commonly diagnosed condition in our feline friends. Many owners choose daily medications to control this condition, but there is another option that does not involve such an ongoing commitment.

Radioactive iodine treatment for hyperthyroid cats may sound a little comic book-esque, but it is often an excellent choice for our patients at Barton Heights Veterinary Hospital.

All About Hyperthyroidism

The endocrine system is primarily responsible for hormone production and regulation. The thyroid gland is an essential part of this system, residing in the cervical region where it produces thyroid hormone. This hormone is essential for the proper functioning of metabolism.

Hyperthyroidism is the overproduction of thyroid hormone. This is a condition that is not uncommon in cats, particularly as they age. It is most frequently secondary to a tumor within the thyroid gland. These tumors are rarely malignant, but they do produce thyroid hormone. Because this hormone production is often outside of the normal regulatory mechanisms of the body, it results in a few characteristic symptoms:

  • Weight loss in spite of a good appetite
  • Increased (and many times ravenous) appetite
  • Vomiting and/or diarrhea
  • Increased activity level
  • Agitation or personality change
  • High heart rate
  • High blood pressure

Thankfully, we have several effective treatment options for our cat patients who are diagnosed with hyperthyroidism.

Radioactive Iodine Treatment as an Option

Historically, most cats with hyperthyroidism have been treated with surgical, medical, and/or dietary therapy. While these options are usually effective, they do not always offer a cure and often require some form of ongoing care.

Radioactive iodine treatment, or I-131 therapy, is a very effective alternative for treating cats with the disease. While it may sound a little scary, it is very safe and offers a total cure rate for upwards of 95% of patients treated.

Many people shy away from anything radioactive. Radioactive iodine therapy has been around for decades, though, and is really not scary at all. Pets who are treated:

  • Receive a single injection of radioactive iodine intravenously
  • Will stay in the hospital for four days in order to minimize exposure of radioactive isotopes post-treatment
  • Will need to be kept away from pregnant women, small children, and immunocompromised individuals for a period of two weeks
  • Often require no further treatment

Most cats do extremely well with this option. While it is a larger expense up front, the eliminated need for ongoing medication and monitoring throughout the remainder of the cat’s life means that radioactive iodine treatment ends up being less costly.

There aren’t many conditions that we diagnose that offer a 95% or better cure rate, which is very good news for those who have cats with this condition. If you have questions or would like more information about potentially treating your cat’s hyperthyroidism with radioactive iodine, please give us a call today.