Surgical Treatment for Hyperthyroidism in Cats

Hyperthyroidism in cats is a common disorder that affects cats when their thyroid becomes overactive. This condition can be dealt with in a few different ways; surgery being a popular method of treatment.

Hyperthyroidism Explained

Hyperthyroidism, also called thyrotoxicosis, occurs in cats that are middle-aged or older. It is an endocrine disorder caused by an increase in the hormones produced by a cat's thyroid. As a result, a cat's thyroid gland becomes enlarged.

A cat's thyroid is made up of two lobes in the area of the neck, on either side of the trachea. The hormones produced, T3 and T4, are controlled by thyroid-stimulating hormones made by a cat's pituitary gland. The T3 and T4 hormones regulate many of the cat's vital systems, including his metabolism. When too many T3 and T4 hormones are produced within a cat's body the thyroid gland develops adenomas, or small nodules, which are benign up to 98% of the time. Adenomas can form on one or both lobes of a cat's thyroid.

Diagnosing Hyperthyroidism in Cats

A veterinarian will complete a physical examination of a cat when one suspects him to have hyperthyroidism, taking into account any symptoms described. One of the exams consists of feeling a cat's neck. If the gland is big enough, a veterinarian will be able to feel the thyroid. A veterinarian will then have the cat's blood tested to see if there is an elevation in the T4 and T3 hormones, but he will particularly look at the T4 levels. Other blood work may be run to make sure the symptoms are not a result of a different underlying condition such as diabetes or liver disease.

Surgical Treatment for Hyperthyroidism in Cats

There are four different ways a cat with hyperthyroidism may be treated: medication, radiation, chemical ablation or surgery. A thyroidectomy, surgical removal of the thyroid, is a popular treatment option for cat owners. The ideal surgical candidate is a cat that deals well with anesthesia, whose thyroid gland is not too large and the thyroid tissue has not migrated to other parts of a cat's body.

One of the biggest advantages of a thyroidectomy is that a cat will be cured of having a hyperactive thyroid if all of the affected tissue is removed. The cost of the procedure is affordable since the price of the thyroid medication a cat would have to take for the rest of his life would be the same cost as the surgery in the long-run. A cat that just had a thyroidectomy will need to be hospitalized for a short period of time to make sure he recovers well from the anesthesia and the procedure.

Like all surgical procedures, complications may arise from the removal of a cat's thyroid. These complications include infection, the accidental removal of the pituitary gland, hypocalcemia, hypothyroidism, and paralysis of the larynx. If all of the affected tissues were not removed during the thyroidectomy, a cat may develop hyperthyroid disease again in the future.

Surgery is a good treatment option for cats that have a hyperactive thyroid gland. Pet owner will need to review the advantages and disadvantages of this procedure with a veterinarian to determine if this is the best mode of treatment for their cat.