Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:
I read a past post where you were considering radioactive iodine therapy for your older cat. I know you have since lost her (so sorry) but I was wondering if you did decide to go through with it. My beloved 16-year-old Isis has been borderline hyperthyroid for a while and just may be diagnosed hyperthyroid when I take her in again for blood work and I want to be prepared. Thanks in advance.
Thomas: Hi, Dory and Isis! Yes, Mama did in fact take our sweet Siouxsie in for radioactive iodine therapy (I-131 therapy for short), and she’s glad she did it.
Bella: I-131 therapy is the gold standard of treatment for hyperthyroidism because unlike medication, surgery or diet, it actually targets the cell that are producing too much thyroid hormone and leaves the other cells alone.
Tara: That means once the therapy is completed, a cat has normal thyroid function afterwards. In surgery, the thyroid glands are removed entirely. This can leave the cat hypothyroid (not producing thyroid hormone). Medication seem less expensive, but the cost can add up over the years. The special diet is designed to be deficient in iodine, which makes the thyroid gland work less effectively.
Thomas: So in the long run, I-131 therapy is the most effective, healthiest and most convenient treatment.
Bella: But there are some things you need to be ready for. First of all, it’s not cheap. When Mama had the treatment done on Siouxsie a couple of years ago, it cost $1,000, but the price can vary tremendously depending on where you live.
Tara: You’ll need to leave Isis at the clinic for anywhere from a couple of days to a week, depending on how much I-131 they use. I-131 is radioactive, and you can’t take your cat home until the level of radiation she’s emitting is safe. Your vet may even tell you not to snuggle with her for a few days after you get home …
Thomas: … although Mama still snuggled with Siouxsie. She figured it wasn’t dangerous enough to warrant not giving Siouxsie the love and warm lap she needed.
Bella: One thing that could be inconvenient is that you’re going to have to dump all her kitty litter after two weeks and keep it in your house for up to 90 days until the radioactivity decreases enough to be undetectable by sensors at your landfill. Mama handled this by buying a paint bucket with a snap-on top and lining it with a garbage bag. Once the proper amount of time had passed, she put the bucket with the litter in the dumpster.
Tara: You and possibly even the clinic could get fined if your garbage sets off radiation detectors, so don’t skip this step!
Thomas: Another thing to be aware of is that it’s possible but very rare that the treatment may not work the first time. That’s what happened with Siouxsie. But the clinic re-treated her for free because the I-131 therapy didn’t work the first time.
Bella: We’d recommend that you ask your clinic what their policy is regarding re-treatment if the I-131 therapy isn’t effective the first time around.
Tara: You mean Siouxsie had to stay at the clinic for days twice?!? Eek!
Thomas: Yes, she did, but we welcomed her with open paws when she came back home each time.
Bella: And we’d welcome you with open paws, too, if you’d simply come out and play!
Tara: Bella, you hiss at me every time you see me!
Bella: But it’s just a little hiss …
Tara: Still, it’s not nice.
Bella: I’m doing my best, just like you. And you’re doing great, by the way. You let Thomas touch noses with you and even give you a lick or two!
Tara: I’m a brave kitty. I even touched Thomas yesterday!
Thomas: You are a brave kitty, Tara. I don’t even mind that you have Mama to yourself all night because it’s helping you to feel more like a member of the family.
Tara: Well, you guys have Mama to yourselves all day, so I guess it’s fair.
Thomas: Anyway, Dory, we hope this helps you to understand what’s going to happen and what questions to ask your vet if it turns out that Isis is hyperthyroid.
Bella: If this post raised any other questions for you, please feel free to ask. We’re always happy to help!
Tara: How about you other readers? Have you had a hyperthyroid cat? What treatment did you choose and how did it work? Please share your stories in the comments.
My cat was adopted late in life after her original person passed away. They call her “fractious”, but she is really just very scared when it comes to strangers, vets, or anything unusual. We had to sedate her for a recent check up, but we covered all the bases, blood, urine, x-ray. She was just on the fringe of being hyperthyroid, but we went ahead with treatment since doing a recheck in six months would require sedation again. Her symptoms (GI upset, crazy appetite, increased water intake and edginess) improved dramatically after a few weeks on methimazole. I get it compounded at a local pharmacy and apply it to her ear once a day. Pills or really any other treatment is/was not an option for her and a good quality of life.