Prevalence and risk factors for hyperthyroidism in Irish cats from the greater Dublin area

Bree L, Gallagher BA, Shiel RE, et al.

Ir Vet J 2018;71:2.

Background: Hyperthyroidism is common in older cats. Prevalence varies geographically, but is anecdotally considered low in Ireland. The aim of this study was to document prevalence of hyperthyroidism in older cats in the greater Dublin area of Ireland and to assess environmental and clinical associations for development and identification of the disease. Methods: Primary-care veterinary practices were requested to select cats aged 10 years or older where blood sampling was being performed for health screening or clinical investigations. Surplus serum/plasma samples were submitted to University College Dublin Diagnostic Endocrine Laboratory for total thyroxine (T4) measurement. Cats were classified as hyperthyroid, equivocal or euthyroid based on a total T4 concentration (reference interval, 15-60 nmol/L), of >60 nmol/L, 30-60 nmol/L or <30 nmol/L, respectively. Simultaneous free T4 or repeat (after 4-6 weeks) total T4 measurement was recommended in all equivocal cases. Animals receiving treatment for hyperthyroidism were excluded. A questionnaire completed by the client and veterinarian detailing historical and physical information was also required. Associations between categorical variables were analysed by Chi-square or Fisher’s exact test and odds ratio (OR) calculated. A P value of <0.05 was considered statistically significant. Results: Samples were submitted from 507 cats including 107 (21.1%) hyperthyroid, 54 (10.6%) equivocal and 346 (68.2%) euthyroid. The presence of goitre (P < 0.0001), tachypnoea (P = 0.0378), tachycardia (P = 0.002), polyphagia (P = 0.0003) and weight loss (P < 0.0001) were significantly associated with hyperthyroidism. Cats with goitre were more likely to be diagnosed as hyperthyroid [OR 2.85, (95% CI 1.75-4.62] compared to those without. However, goitre was only palpated in 40 of 102 (39.2%) hyperthyroid cats. Increasing age was the only significant (P < 0.002) risk factor for development of hyperthyroidism. A relationship between hyperthyroidism and sex, breed, lifestyle, parasite control, vaccination status or feeding habits was not identified. Conclusions: Hyperthyroidism is not uncommon in Irish cats. Age was the only significant risk factor for its development. The high proportion of hyperthyroid cats without palpable goitre (> 60%) may reflect failure to detect goitre and account for the perceived low prevalence of this condition in Ireland.