What to Expect from Radiation Treatment of Your Cat's Thyroid Tumor

Posted on: 1 September 2015

Your veterinarian diagnosed your cat as hyperthyroid with a tumor in the thyroid gland. Of the various treatment options, your vet recommended radiation treatment of the tumor. This is a definitive treatment, destroying the cancerous cells and restoring the normal function of the thyroid. It does mean a couple of nights in the animal hospital, though. Here is what the treatment entails and when you can get your feline friend back home.

Targeting the Thyroid Tumor with Radiation

Radioactive iodine is injected into your cat's bloodstream. The thyroid gland is the only organ which absorbs the iodine. The tumor cells are the most active cells in the thyroid and take in most of the radioactive iodine. The iodine binds with these cells and kills them, leaving the healthy cells untouched. What iodine doesn't get bound is flushed out of your cat's body in its urine.

As the cancerous cells die, the healthy thyroid cells take over the hormone production at a normal rate. Your cat's metabolism returns to normal and your hyperactive cat settles down into its old, less frenetic personality.

Your Cat's Hospital Stay

The treatment of your cat takes only a few minutes, but it must stay in the hospital until sufficient radioactivity has left its system. As mentioned above, excess radioactive material is removed from your cat's body in its urine. The larger and more advanced the tumor, the longer your cat will stay in the hospital after the treatment. The pet hospital will check the urine daily after the treatment for the level of radiation. Each day it will be less until it reaches a safe level.

Your cat will be kept in a special area designed for radiation patients. You won't be able to bring and leave any cat toys or blankets because of the risk of radiation contamination. You also won't be able to visit your kitty while it is in this restricted area.

When Your Cat Gets Home

Once you take your cat home from the radiation clinic, you'll follow a number of precautions because of the small amount of radiation still in the cat's body. The radiation level is safe for you and your cat short term. The precautions are to limit your lifetime exposure to radiation sources. Some of the precautions include the following:

  • Don't allow your cat to come into contact with other people or animals for a couple of weeks.
  • Limit the physical contact with your cat to a few minutes at a time.
  • Scoop used cat litter into a large bucket lined with a heavy trash can liner. Seal the bucket and store for several weeks before putting it out with the trash. Your vet will tell you when it's safe to dispose of the litter depending on the dose of radiation your cat received.
  • Wash your hands after contact with your cat, litter boxes, and food dishes.

Your vet will have a follow-up visit with your cat in a week or two after discharge from the hospital and can tell you when you can lift these precautions. For further help or information, contact a representative from an establishment like Glen Erin Animal Hospital.

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