Post-operative care for cats after thyroidectomy surgery
This surgery is performed on older cats that develop overproduction of thyroid hormone (hyperthyroidism) from the two
thyroid glands in the neck. In about one third cases one thyroid gland is involved, and both thyroid glands are involved in
two thirds of cases. These cats usually have voracious appetites yet become thin. They usually drink a lot and may have
intermittent vomiting and diarrhoea. They have high heart rates and the enlarged thyroid glands can usually be felt in the
neck. A blood test is usually done to confirm the diagnosis and to check for other conditions like kidney disease or diabetes.
Cats are stabilised for a few weeks before surgery with oral medication. This lowers their heart rates, gets them gaining
weight, and makes anaesthesia a safer proposition. Some cats can be managed medically long term, but surgery offers an
alternative to the commitment of daily medicating which some owners and some cats find stressful.
Although surgery involves an anaesthetic in an older cat, the procedure is short. With careful pre-operative stabilisation
the anaesthetic risk is modest. The surgery itself is not risk-free (see below) but the great majority of cats return to normal
after surgery and “get their lives back”. Medication:
We may dispense meloxicam (a liquid given once daily with food). Meloxicam
occasionally causes vomiting or diarrhoea in which case advice should be sought.
We usually dispense buprenorphine, a liquid given by syringe by mouth every 8 hours for the early post-operative period.
Thyroid hormone supplementation is not required
Calcium supplementation (see below) is only given in the occasional cases when problems develop
must not be interfered with or bathed. If bleeding or ooze is seen, advice should be sought. The wound under
the neck usually heals very well. Skin sutures can be removed at 2 weeks post-operatively. Careful observation and supervision
is advised for the first three days in cats that have had both thyroids removed, to
watch for the development of tremors or seizures (see below). We advise that cats are kept under veterinary supervision
for this observation period when both thyroids have been removed. Supervised exercise around the house is fine, but
ensure that doors and windows are shut to avoid escapes! Water intake is to be encouraged post-operatively
. Make litter tray(s) readily available. If you doubt that your cat is
drinking normal amounts, and if you doubt that puddles of urine are being passed on a regular basis – say twice daily –
please seek prompt advice. Rechecks
a few days after surgery may be with your own vet to save un-necessary travelling. We can do this check-up if
travelling is not an issue, and all post-op check-ups are free of charge with us under our “fixed price” schemes. Please
contact us to book an appointment for us to see the case back 2-3 weeks post-operatively when we can remove
sutures/staples and check that all is going to plan. Complications
After removal of one thyroid gland, the other one may develop problems and need removing at a later date. You will be
familiar with the signs of over production of thyroid hormone when you see them for the second time! About 2% of cats
with hyperthyroidism have a cancerous condition of the thyroids, and this will obviously worsen the prognosis.
Some cats have marginal kidney function before surgery. Kidney issues can be “unmasked” post-operatively when the cat’s
blood pressure normalises. Preoperative blood tests endeavour to spot poor kidney function in advance of surgery.
Occasionally cats that have had both thyroid glands removed develop low calcium levels in their blood soon after surgery,
because of damage to their parathyroid glands which are located next to the thyroid glands. The signs of this complication
are tremors and sometimes seizures. Medically management of this complication with calcium and vitamin D is usually
successful, but it is a serious complication that can involve a lot of time, effort, commitment and expense in controlling.
For further advice please contact us by phone on 07944 105501 or at [email protected]
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