Peterson M.E., Melian C. and Nichols R.
OBJECTIVE: To determine the usefulness of measuring serum free thyroxine (T4) concentration as a diagnostic test for hyperthyroidism in cats, and to determine the influence of nonthyroidal disease on free T4 concentration in cats without hyperthyroidism. DESIGN: Prospective case series. ANIMALS: 917 cats with untreated hyperthyroidism, 221 cats with nonthyroidal disease, and 172 clinically normal cats. PROCEDURE: Serum free T4, total T4, and total triiodothyronine (T3) concentrations were measured in cats with untreated hyperthyroidism and cats with nonthyroidal disease. Serum total T4 and T3 concentrations were determined by use of radioimmunoassay, and free T4 concentration was measured by use of direct equilibrium dialysis. Reference ranges for hormone concentrations were established on the basis of results from the 172 clinically normal cats. RESULTS: Sensitivity of serum free T4 concentration as a diagnostic test for hyperthyroidism was significantly higher than the test sensitivity of either total T4 or T3 concentration. Of the 221 cats with nonthyroidal disease, 14 had a high free T4 concentration (ie, false-positive result). Therefore, calculated specificity of measuring serum free T4 concentration as a diagnostic test for hyperthyroidism was significantly lower than test specificity of measuring either the total T4 or T3 concentration. CONCLUSIONS AND CLINICAL RELEVANCE: Results indicate that determination of free T4 concentration is useful in the diagnosis of hyperthyroidism, especially in cats in which hyperthyroidism is suspected but total T4 and T3 concentrations are within reference ranges. However, because some cats with nonthyroidal disease have high serum free T4 concentrations, hyperthyroidism should not be diagnosed solely on the finding of high free T4 concentration.