Radioiodine Therapy

If your cat is showing signs of hyperthyroidism, you’ll be glad to know that Burlington Emergency and Veterinary Specialists offers a safe, effective treatment to help restore your cat’s good health. It’s called radioiodine therapy, and it’s considered the best choice today for curing hyperthyroidism.

What is hyperthyroidism?

Hyperthyroidism is a condition that affects some older cats when the thyroid gland begins to produce too much thyroid hormone. As a result, the cat’s metabolic rate goes go into high gear, causing such symptoms as:

  • Weight loss
  • Increased appetite
  • Restlessness
  • Increased water drinking
  • Matted or greasy fur
  • Fast heart rate
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

If hyperthyroidism is left untreated, it damages a cat’s organs and body systems, and can cause heart failure.

How does radioiodine therapy work?

Radioactive iodine (a substance called I-131) therapy is a minimally invasive alternative to performing surgery on your cat’s thyroid gland or giving your cat daily medication. Best of all, over 95% of cats are cured of hyperthyroidism with just one I-131 injection.

The thyroid gland is the only gland or organ in the body to naturally use iodine. As a result, when radioactive iodine is injected into the body, it goes right to the thyroid gland, where it’s absorbed by the hyperactive thyroid cells, destroying them. It doesn’t travel anyplace else in the body or affect any nearby structures.

Any radioactive iodine not taken up by the thyroid gland is naturally eliminated through urine and feces within a few days.

How long does radioiodine treatment take?

After the injection is administered, federal law requires that your cat spend a minimum of 96 hours (4 days) in isolation until the I-131 is excreted from their system and they can safely return home. For your safety, no visits are permitted during this time.

We understand that it’s hard to be separated from your cat, so we enable you to virtually visit him or her via web cam at any time, night or day. All you need is a web-enabled device (smart phone, tablet or computer) and internet access. We’ll give you a unique code that will connect you to the web cam feed to the private suite in which your pet is being cared for.
Because radiation safety regulations require that direct contact with hospitalized radioiodine patients be kept to a minimum, our hospital staff—who are here 24/7—also use the web cam to continuously monitor your cat.

What happens when my cat comes home after radioiodine therapy?

When cats treated with radioiodine are approved for discharge, they are emitting no greater than “background” radiation levels. This means if you’re standing one meter (about 3 feet) from your cat, you’ll be exposed to radiation levels comparable to standing outside on a sunny day. Closer contact will result in slightly higher radiation exposure until any residual radioiodine has been eliminated.

For your safety, BEVS recommends that you take the following precautions for a two-week period following release from the hospital:

  • Keep your cat indoors or in an enclosed area
  • Avoid prolonged physical contact with your cat, and do not let them sleep in bed with you
  • Always wash your hands after contact with your cat
  • Wear rubber or latex gloves when cleaning the litter box and disposing of litter. Soiled litter should be disposed of daily in a plastic bag, then placed in an outside receptacle. Cats that share litter boxes may continue to do so.
  • Children under 18 years of age or pregnant women should have no contact with your cat during this time

You may resume normal activities after this two-week period.

The advantages of radioiodine therapy (I-131)

If you are considering radioiodine therapy for your cat, it’s important to know:

  • It eliminates the need to give your cat a daily pill
  • This one-time procedure is more economical than surgery or daily medication
  • No anesthesia is required
  • Normal thyroid tissue isn’t affected
  • Your cat’s thyroid function returns to normal within a few weeks

Is my cat a good candidate for radioiodine therapy?

Ideally, your cat should be free of major heart, kidney, gastrointestinal or endocrine disease, and not aggressive in nature. Because most patients for this treatment are middle- to older-aged cats, they often have other health conditions, so we’ll perform a thorough evaluation before recommending this treatment.

Learn more about radioiodine therapy

If you would like to know more about radioiodine therapy for your cat, please ask your family veterinarian for a referral to BEVS for a consultation.

If your cat is currently undergoing Radioactive Iodine (131I) therapy for hyperthyroidism, federal law requires that they remain in strict radioactive isolation during their treatment. During this time period you are not allowed to have direct visitation with your pet. You can, however make use of our 131I Virtual Visit web cameras. When you brought your cat in for treatment you should have been provided with a suite number. Click the suite number below and you will be taken to a webcam feed of the suite in which your pet is being cared for. Browsers that support the viewing site includes; FireFox and Internet Explorer 11. Chrome is not supported at this time.