Radioiodine Treatment for Feline Hyperthyroidism

Learn everything there is to know about radioiodine treatments for feline hyperthyroidism. Discover common side effects, what happens if there is too much exposure to i-131 and what to expect of your cat's recovery following radioactive iodine treatments.

Feline Hypothyroidism Versus Feline Hyperthyroidism

Feline hyperthyroidism is a condition in which the thyroid gland produces too much thyroid hormone leading to severe weight loss, excessive thirst and hunger and an increase in heart rate. Untreated hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid) can lead to heart failure if left untreated.

Feline hypothyroidism is uncommon in cats unless they've undergone radioactive iodine treatments for hyperthyroidism. In hypothyroidism, the underactive thyroid doesn't work effectively to control the metabolism, so weight gain is a major concern. Hypothyroidism isn't life threatening, but the increased weight gain does strain other organs and make it difficult for a cat to move around.

What Is Radioiodine

I-131 is a form of iodine, but the radioactive version. It's used commonly to treat conditions with an overactive thyroid called hyperthyroidism.

Radioactive iodine, also referred to as i-131 or radioiodine, is a radioactive particle that travels through your blood stream where it commonly collects in the thyroid gland. What isn't readily absorbed exits through urine within a few days.

In the thyroid gland, the i-131 destroys thyroid tissue causing the thyroid to slow the production of thyroid hormones. Because feline hyperthyroidism involves copious production of thyroid hormones, the radioactive iodine thyroid treatment stops the condition from causing numerous health problems.

Benefits to Radioiodine Treatments in Cats

The benefits to i-131 thyroid treatments usually involve price and ease of use. Because i-131 is given as a vaccination, cats generally do not suffer severe stress because it's not different to a vaccination. The i-131 then collects in the thyroid gland and gets to work. Cats do not need to stay in the veterinary practice for extended periods of time, usually they are released within four days of receiving the vaccination. In addition, they do not need anesthesia and their thyroid generally returns to normal function within four to six weeks.

Other options for treating feline hyperthyroidism include surgery or daily medications. Medications such as Tapazole generally cost almost $1,000 a year plus the cost of repetitive blood tests and check ups. Surgery costs go even higher. An i-131 injection is initially expensive, usually around $1,500, but only required once so you save a lot of money in the long run.

Possible Radioiodine Side Effects

The most common radioiodine side effects involved the fact that radioiodine is radioactive. You will not be allowed to see your pet until the animal is released from the veterinary clinic. Once you take your pet home, it is recommended that pet owners not share their bed with the cat or allow the cat to sit on their lap for three weeks, especially for pregnant women and children. In addition, rubber gloves must be worn while cleaning kitty litter bins.

Cats given radioiodine usually have no physical side effects. The only major concern is the development of feline hypothyroidism following treatment. Hypothyroidism involves too little thyroid hormone production.