Your veterinarian has diagnosed a thyroid tumor in your cat. The tumor causes the thyroid to put out more of the hormone which regulates your cat's metabolism. This creates your cat's nervous behaviors and their insatiable appetite. This type of cancer can be cured with radiation therapy. Once the tumor is gone, your cat's metabolism will return to normal. Here is how the radiation treatment works and what you can expect from it.
Preparing for Treatment
Your cat will need to go to a special animal hospital licensed to do radiation treatments. The staff are all trained in the proper procedures to safely handle radioactive materials.
The radiation treatment is a quick procedure, but your cat will need to stay in the hospital until they can be safely sent home with you. Do not bring any toys or cat beds in with your cat as these will have to be thrown out once they are contaminated with any radioactive material.
The Treatment Process
Radioactive iodine is injected into your cat's bloodstream. Their thyroid gland picks up the iodine from the blood. The radioactive material accumulates in the thyroid gland and disrupts the production of the tumor cells. The iodine binds with existing tumor cells and kills them. Any iodine not taken in to the thyroid is excreted from the body through the cat's urine.
When enough of the tumor cells have been killed by the radioactive iodine, the thyroid gland resumes normal levels of hormone production. Your cat's metabolism slows down and they lose the nervous behaviors.
Monitoring for Radiation Levels
The animal hospital will begin monitoring the radiation levels in your cat's urine. Your cat will need to stay at least overnight at the animal hospital, and perhaps longer, depending on the size of your cat and the amount of iodine they received. When the radiation levels are safe, your cat can go home. While the dose of radiation your cat is given is small, the vet wants to make sure that you and your family are exposed to minimal amounts of radiation when your cat goes home.
Once Your Cat is at Home
The hospital will give you a set of instructions as to how to handle your cat and their waste once they get home. This is to limit your exposure to radioactive material. The instructions will include:
- Keep your cat away from other pets and people for several days.
- Limit your own exposure to your cat to a few minutes at a time.
- Wash your hands thoroughly after petting your cat or handling their food dishes and litter box.
Your veterinarian will also have you take special care with the litter box contents, such as:
- Scoop the litter into a lined pail with a tight fitting lid.
- When full, seal the lid shut and set the pail someplace where it won't be disturbed.
- The animal hospital will tell you when it's safe to put the pail out with the trash to be collected.
You'll have a follow up appointment with your vet in a few weeks to test your cat's urine for radiation. The vet (like those at Center-Sinai Animal Hospital) will tell you when the radiation levels have gone down enough that you can stop the precautions at home.