From 5th June, The Veterinary Surgery in Lowestoft will offer a new radioactive iodine (RI) therapy service to all veterinary practices in the East of England, to help treat cats with hyperthyroidism.
The service will be run by Dr Eloise Quince BVetMed CertAVP(SAM-F) PgCertVPS MANZCVS MRCVS andDr Kate Allgood BVetMed CertAVP(SAM) MRCVS – supported by an experienced team of Registered Veterinary Nurses.
Hyperthyroidism is a common condition in older cats where the thyroid gland becomes overactive and produces too much thyroid hormone. This is due to a benign cancerous process called an adenoma.
Signs of hyperthyroidism include weight loss with an increased appetite, increased thirst, vomiting and diarrhoea, increased activity levels and restlessness, an increased heart rate, and an unkempt appearance[i].
RI therapy is the treatment of choice for hyperthyroid cats as it provides a permanent cure in up to 95 per cent of cases. It is administered by an iodine injection under the skin in a specialised unit for containing radiation, by a specifically trained vet and registered veterinary nurse.
One of benefits of RI is that it treats ‘ectopic tissue’ that may be present outside of the thyroid gland[ii], which is not treated by surgical methods of thyroid removal. Normal thyroid tissue is also spared, so that there is normal thyroid function post-treatment. Though some blood tests need to be taken post-treatment[iii], there is no need for ongoing blood samples and the monitoring of the thyroid function once successful treatment has occurred.
Eloise Quince and Kate Allgood said: “We have a culture of recommending the best possible treatments to our clients. And we want to provide the best clinical care every time. This means ensuring our clinicians have access to the right facilities, equipment and medicines at the right time.
Elissa Norman, Clinical Director, who initially developed the idea for the iodine unit said: “The iodine unit first started as a scribble on a piece of paper and a dream of our team back in 2017 and it has taken a huge amount of dedication and effort from a large team of people to get to the point of opening in 2023. Radioactive iodine offers a lifetime cure for our Hyperthyroid cats and we are delighted to be able to bring this service to the cats of East Anglia.”
To identify the condition blood tests are conducted for excessive levels of thyroxine, a hormone released by the thyroid gland. Checks will also be conducted of cats’ kidney and liver function for anaemia – that can present alongside hyperthyroidism. These tests are confirmed along with a heart scan and blood pressure measurement. These checks enable patients to safely undergo treatment within the RI unit.
Cats are normally hospitalised for between eight days to two weeks after the injection is given[iv]. On discharge, special precautions that must be adhered at home to keep owners and cats safe.
The new RI therapy service is available to all veterinary practices in Norfolk and Suffolk from the 5th June 2023. To refer a cat patient, vets should email firstname.lastname@example.org