Multivariate Analysis of Risk Factors for Feline Hyperthyroidism in New Zealand

Olczak J., Jones B.R., Pfeiffer D.U., et al.

N Z Vet J, 2005. 53(1): p.53-8.


AIM: To search for putative risk factors for feline hyperthyroidism in New Zealand, using a case-control study. METHODS: A questionnaire-based case-control study involving the owners of 375 cats in New Zealand (125 hyperthyroid cats, 125 randomly selected control cats, and 125 age- and sex-matched control cats) was conducted to examine associations between potential risk factors and occurrence of feline hyperthyroidism. Data were collected between December 1996 and February 1998, relative to cat and owner demography and medical history, cats’ indoor and outdoor environments, and cats’ diets. A range of statistical techniques was employed to analyse the data, including descriptive analyses, univariate logistic regression for each variable and multivariate stepwise forward logistic regression. RESULTS: Multivariate analysis revealed that affected cats were more likely to be female (odds ratio (OR)=3.3; 95% confidence interval (CI)=1.2-9.0) and older than unaffected random control cats. Purebred cats were at a much lower risk of being diagnosed as hyperthyroid than were domestic short- and long-haired cats (OR=0.01; 95% CI=0.001-0.20). If more than one cat was present in a household, hyperthyroidism was less likely to be identified (OR=0.15; 95% CI=0.05-0.44) compared with single-cat households. Hyperthyroid cats were 6.6 times more likely (95% CI=1.8-23.9) to be reported to sleep predominantly on the floor than control cats. Cats whose bedding was regularly treated with anti-flea products appeared to be at a considerably higher risk for hyperthyroidism (OR=57.6; 95% CI=3.8–>200); and, to a lesser extent, so were cats living in households where fly sprays were reported to be used regularly (OR=3.3; 95% CI=1.2-9.3). The interaction between drinking water from puddles and regular use of organic garden fertilisers, such as compost or animal manure, was associated with a 5.3-fold (95% CI=1.1-25.6) increase in the risk of cats being diagnosed with the disease. Hyperthyroid cats were twice as likely (95% CI=0.3-12.9) to have eaten at least half of their daily food requirements as canned commercial cat food compared with unaffected cats. Cats exposed to a variety of flavours of canned cat food were more likely to be diagnosed with hyperthyroidism than were those fed only one flavour (OR=3.8; 95% CI=1.5-9.6). The presence of dental disorders was associated with a 5.5-fold increase in the risk of being diagnosed as hyperthyroid and this association was independent of the cat’s age (95% CI=1.7-17.5). CONCLUSIONS: The results of this study support and extend those in several earlier reports and show that cats in New Zealand are, in many respects, similar to cats in Europe and North America in terms of their susceptibility to hyperthyroidism. The finding that female cats are predisposed to hyperthyroidism is at variance with most previously published work. It remains unclear which, if any, of the identified disease associations are causal, so further studies of this increasingly prevalent feline endocrinopathy are warranted.