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What is Thyroidectomy?

Thyroidectomy is a surgical procedure which involves removing one or both thyroid glands. Thyroidectomy is used to treat hyperthyroidism, a common condition in older cats in which the thyroid glands produce extra amounts of thyroid hormones. Thyroidectomy is also used to treat select cases of thyroid cancer. The surgery has a high success rate, although postoperative complications are possible.

Thyroidectomy Procedure in Cats

There are a few different surgical techniques veterinary surgeons can use to remove the thyroid gland(s). The technique used will depend on whether or not both glands need to be removed. The procedure steps for both single (unilateral) thyroid removal and total (bilateral) thyroid removal will be discussed below. These techniques carry the lowest risk of complication and the highest rate of success.

Preoperative Preparations

  1. For a few weeks prior to surgery, cats will be required to take oral medications to help them gain weight, lower their heart rate, and prepare them for the general anesthetic.
  2. The surgeon may take blood tests prior to surgery to confirm kidney function.
  3. The cat will first be anesthetized.

Unilateral Thyroidectomy

  1. The surgeon will make the initial entry incision and identify the enlarged thyroid or tumor.
  2. The thyroid capsule is then cut, and the surgeon will take care to avoid damaging the parathyroid gland.
  3. The external parathyroid gland and surrounding thyroid capsule will then be dissected, or separated, from the tumor.
  4. The blood supply to the tumor will be cut off using bipolar cautery.
  5. Once the blood supply has been ligated, the tumor will be removed along with the surrounding thyroid capsule.
  6. The thyroid capsule surrounding the parathyroid gland will be left in place to ensure proper blood flow and prevent complications from parathyroid damage.
  7. The surgeon will ensure all diseased portions of the thyroid have been removed before suturing the wound closed with absorbable sutures.
  8. The initial entry site will then be sutured.

Bilateral Thyroidectomy

  1. The surgeon will repeat the steps listed above to remove the other thyroid gland.
  2. Some surgeons may suggest that the removal of the second thyroid gland take place three to four weeks following the removal of the first. However, this is may not be ideal, particularly because the disease is more common in older cats that are susceptible to complications associated with general anesthesia.
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Efficacy of Thyroidectomy in Cats

The efficacy of the surgical procedure will depend on the underlying condition. While there are some valid concerns about administering general anesthesia to older cats, the surgery is short and typically cures hyperthyroidism in the majority of cats. For cases of thyroid cancer, the prognosis is usually guarded due to the condition of the heart at the time of surgery.

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Thyroidectomy Recovery in Cats

Owners should ensure that cats rest during the recovery period and drink plenty of water. Cats that have undergone thyroidectomy will usually be prescribed anti-inflammatory medications and analgesics for pain management. Cats may be required to wear an Elizabethan collar to prevent them from irritating the surgery site. Owners should check the surgery site daily to ensure no bleeding, pus, or swelling has developed. Follow-up appointments will typically be scheduled for a few days following surgery, and again two to three weeks following surgery to monitor healing and remove sutures.

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Cost of Thyroidectomy in Cats

The cost of thyroidectomy will vary based on other costs incurred, such as medications and supportive care. The cost of thyroidectomy on its own can range from $900 to $1,200.

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Cat Thyroidectomy Considerations

Though the surgery is generally curative in most cases, complications after surgery are possible. If one thyroid gland is removed, the other thyroid gland may become diseased over time and will also have to be removed. The condition may recur in the same thyroid gland because a small amount of thyroid capsule tissue is not removed. In some cases, surgery reveals problems with kidney function, which is why surgeons will generally attempt to assess kidney function prior to surgery. 

There is also a chance that thyroidectomy will cause damage to the parathyroid gland. This can cause calcium levels to drop, which can lead to serious complications such as tremors and seizures. Damage to the parathyroid gland is generally managed with calcium and vitamin D supplementation, which is usually successful. For cases of thyroid cancer, there is a chance that the condition can recur following surgery.

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Thyroidectomy Prevention in Cats

Hyperthyroidism has been linked to pollutants in the environment, such as:

  • BPA: A chemical used to make certain plastics
  • PBDE: A flame-retardant chemical used in foam and plastics
  • Soy isoflavones: A plant derivative often found in commercial cat food 

Owners are encouraged not to use plastic food or water bowls as these may contain toxic chemicals known to cause hyperthyroidism. Certain cat litter may also contain harmful chemicals that cause hyperthyroidism. Fish-based commercial diets may also play a role in the development of hyperthyroidism. Diets that are also incredibly low or high in iodine should be avoided.

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Thyroidectomy Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Maine Coone

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Two Years

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Hyperthyroid....(Maybe)

my cat, jojo, has a growth that was biopsied and the results were not very clear. it was said that there is a growth in his throat that is pushing against his trachea, causing his voice to change and trouble passing hair balls. He eats when you put food in front of him but does not go looking for food. He eats but stops when I believe it becomes to painful to swallow. The lab results could not determine if the growth was benign or malignant. I feel having the growth removed (whatever it is) may not necessarily cure whatever it is,but will buy him time and relive some of the pain and discomfort

July 16, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Gina U. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Hello So sorry that your kitty may be painful. If he has a growth in his throat that is causing him difficulty in swallowing, it may be best to have it removed. Have you consulted with a veterinary surgeon? This is usually recommended as there are many delicate tissues and nerves in the throat that have to be preserved. You can try offering soft food in the meantime. Good luck.

July 16, 2020

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Smokey

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Short haired domestic cat

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16 Years

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Fair severity

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1 found helpful

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Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Weight Loss

cat is currently 16 years old on one vidalta tablet daily. currently quite thin and very sleepy. appetite very poorhas some wet food and prescribed Royal Canin senior consult stage two high calorie. which he does not want to eat

May 28, 2018

Smokey's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

You didn’t mention how long Smokey has been on Vidalta (carbimazole) or which size tablet she is taking; a loss of appetite is a common side effect once treatment begins but generally self resolves after a few days. You should return to your Veterinarian for an examination and a discussion about the management options for hyperthyroidism. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM www.vidalta.co.uk

May 29, 2018

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Philius

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British Shorthair

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12 Years

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

None Currently Apparently Has Norma

Hello We are thinking of adopting a rescue cat. He is 12 and has recently had one ( or part of one) thyroid removed. We understand from the rescue centre that he may need his other thyroid removed as time goes on. Because we won’t be able to insure him against this existing problem I’m keen to find out how much it may cost before we commit to taking him on.

April 28, 2018

Philius' Owner

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3320 Recommendations

Surgeries like thyroidectomy may cost a few thousand dollars, but this type of surgery is a back end priced surgery meaning that they are not advertised prices so it is difficult to compare between different practices. You should ensure that you are prepared for adopting Philius and you should ensure that you have a third party Veterinarian check him over first and get a local quotation for thyroidectomy. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

April 29, 2018

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Harley and or ori

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Short hair domestic

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8 Years

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Newly Diagnosed

I currently have two cats recently diagnosed with hyperthyroid. While I was considering radioactive treatment with the first diagnosed there is no way I can afford two cats for radioactive treatment.. now I'm considering surgery for both..however they are very large cats at the moment.. Will weight play a factor in surgery with complications?? One is 11 yrs old weighing 16 pounds and the other is 8 years old weighing 18 pounds...

April 20, 2018

Harley and or ori's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

Being overweight is always a complicating factor for surgery, but not so much so that you should not consider having the surgery if that is what you and your veterinarian have decided is best for both cats. It is unusual for cats affected by thyroid disease to be overweight, however, so it may be a good idea to really confirm that they both have hyperthyroid disease. I hope that everything goes well for them.

April 20, 2018

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Simone

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Cat

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13 Years

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Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Weight Loss
Weight Loss, Fur Thinning.

Our kitty took Methimazole and it made her liver enzymes elevate. She was also losing patches of hair on her face from rubbing it so hard from itching. She has been off meds for 4 weeks now and eating Y/D. Thyroid is creeping back up. Our vet wants to perform the thyroidectomy as said it is only a 10% chance that her other gland would go HT. I don’t know how he came up with 10%. There is a clinic 3.5 hours from us who does I-131. I don’t know if she is a candidate without taking her there and getting the work up from our vet for them to review. We have to decide soon since she has no other issues and can have the surgery now. We only want is best for her. I haven’t asked if a lower dose of medicine is an option but assume not.

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Tigga

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dsh

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12 Years

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Serious severity

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0 found helpful

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Huge Lump In Neck!

Just sharing for others considering a thyroidectomy for their cat. Tigga is/was an otherwise healthy neutered male 12yo ginger ninja. One night I found a huge lump on his neck, the next day the vet confirmed my suspicion of a thyroid tumour and recommended surgical intervention (I’m not sure if iodine therapy would have helped but the cost was prohibitive). 4 days post surgery and Tigga is recovering relatively well. He is struggling a little with solid food but is drinking well and reluctantly accepting Nutri gel a couple of times a day via syringe to supplement the small amounts of food he is consuming. His recovery is taking a bit longer than I expected, it is this aspect I wanted to share. So far as surgery goes, for the vet it may be a walk in the park but it will take quite a bit out of your beloved pet, particularly if he or she is advanced in age. Cheers! Brett & Tigga

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BB

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Domestic long hair

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15 Years

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Serious severity

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0 found helpful

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Weight Loss
Weight Loss, Vomiting

Our 15 year old cat had previously been overweight at 17 lbs. He was put on diet food and lost half his body weight. The vet periodically ran labs and found he now had a thyroid problem causing him to lose too much weight. He started taking methimazole for about 2 yrs but eventually it stopped helping. He had one thyroid removed but continued to loose weight. The vet monitored his labs for nearly another year and finally decided he needed to have his other thyroid removed. At first he couldn't find it because it was down lower in his throat almost to his sternum and was nearly the size of a golf ball! The doctor couldn't locate his parathyoid and assumes it had been absorbed by the remaining thyroid. Now his calcium is extremely low and the vet is keeping him for several days to monitor him hoping he will start making calcium again. He may need to be on medication to regulate his calcium. I just hope he is able to fully recover and live out the remainder of his life in relative good health.

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