After noticing that your cat was restless and constantly eating, drinking and using the litter box, you take them to the vet to discover that they have a thyroid tumor. Now you must decide on how you want this to be treated -- medication, surgery or radiation therapy. Each treatment can give your cat several years of a comfortable life. Effectiveness, side effects and finances are all factors to consider in your decision. This information will help you compare the choices to determine the best treatment for both you and your cat.
The Goal of All Treatments
The thyroid produces a hormone that adjusts the body's metabolism. A tumor in the thyroid gland stimulates it to produce more hormone than necessary. This increases your cat's metabolism, resulting in your cat's hyperactivity. The goal of each treatment is to return the hormone level to normal to take the stress off of your cat's body. Each of these treatments does this a different way.
You can give your cat a pill (methimazole) twice a day which suppresses the production of thyroid hormone. Your veterinarian will do periodic blood tests to check on the hormone level and adjust the medication dose until the proper level is reached. Once the correct dosage is set, you will give this medication to your cat for the rest of its life. The vet will want to do blood tests every year to make sure the dose is still correct.
The medication doesn't cure the problem and the tumor still exists. The tumor can grow, stimulating the thyroid gland more, requiring higher doses of medicine to counteract. Some of the side effects of the medication include sleeping more, reduced appetite, vomiting and stomach upset. The initial cost of this treatment is lower than the others. But, since you must give the pills to your cat for the rest of its life, the cost can become high over time.
Removal of part or all of the thyroid to get rid of the effects of the tumor is another option. Some surgeons will try to keep some of the thyroid gland, while others prefer to remove it entirely, feeling that the tumor will reappear in any of the thyroid tissue that remains.
If all of the affected tissue is not removed, the tumor will likely come back. Your cat will need to be on a thyroid medication for the rest of their life to compensate for the loss of the gland. Your cat can also suffer from lower calcium levels in their blood and need a supplement. This is an expensive procedure involving a surgical team and the use of a general anesthetic. Should all of the tumor cells not get removed, your cat may have to undergo a second surgery.
This procedure consists of injecting radioactive iodine into your cat's blood stream. The iodine is absorbed by the thyroid gland and the cancerous cells. The tumor cells slowly die and the thyroid levels return to normal within a few weeks. Your cat will need to stay in the cat clinic during the treatment and until the level of radioactive iodine in their body decrease to a level making it safe to go home.
This treatment has a high one-time cost, but you won't have any additional costs for long-term medicine treatment as with the other options. There are few side effects which include loss of appetite and sleeplessness for a few days after they get home.
Which Treatment is Best For Your Cat?
There is no one-size-fits-all treatment. If your cat is having serious heart and blood pressure problems from the hyperthyroidism, surgery may be needed to get rid of the tumor's effects quickly. If your cat has kidney damage from prolonged high thyroid hormone levels, you may only want to keep them comfortable for their remaining time by using the medication option. The best treatment option depends on your cat's current health and the quality of life they can expect to get from the particular treatment. Consult a professional veterinarian clinic, like Metropolitan Cat Hospital Limited, for more information on treatment options for your cat.