Prevalence of and risk factors for feline hyperthyroidism in South Africa

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McLean JL, Lobetti RG, Mooney CT, et al.

J Feline Med Surg 2017;19:1103-1109.

Objectives Hyperthyroidism is a disorder of older cats that may have a geographical variation in prevalence. Prevalence studies have not yet been performed in South Africa, a geographical area where hyperthyroidism in cats has recently been observed and where, reportedly, the incidence appears to be increasing. The purpose of this study was to determine the prevalence of feline hyperthyroidism in South Africa and to identify any potential risk factors. Further information on the worldwide prevalence and possible causative factors would increase our understanding of the aetiology of this disease and help identify any preventive measures. Methods Serum total thyroxine (tT4) and canine thyroid-stimulating hormone (cTSH) were measured in 302 cats aged 9 years and older that were presented at various veterinary clinics throughout South Africa. In cats with equivocal tT4 and undetectable cTSH values, serum free thyroxine (fT4) was also measured. At the time of blood sampling a questionnaire was completed regarding vaccination history, internal and external parasite control, diet and environment. Results Prevalence of hyperthyroidism (tT4 >50 nmol/l or tT4 between 30 and 50 nmol/l with TSH <0.03 ng/ml and fT4 >50 pmol/l) was 7% (95% confidence interval 4.4-10.4), with no significant difference between healthy (5%) and sick (8%) cats. Cats 12 years of age (odds ratio [OR] 4.3, P = 0.02) and cats eating canned food (OR 2.1, P = 0.1) were more likely to be diagnosed with hyperthyroidism. No significant relationship between vaccinations, parasite control or indoor environment and hyperthyroidism was observed. Hyperthyroid cats were more likely to present with weight loss (OR 3.2, P = 0.01) and with a heart rate 200 beats per min (OR 5, P = 0.01) than cats without the disease. Conclusions and relevance Hyperthyroidism does not appear to be uncommon in the South African cat population. Risk factors for hyperthyroidism, specifically older age and eating canned food, were present in this as in other reported populations.