Animal Models of Disease: Feline Hyperthyroidism: An Animal Model for Toxic Nodular Goiter

Peterson M.E. J Endocrinol, 2014. 223(2): p.T97-T114.


Since first discovered just 35 years ago, the incidence of spontaneous feline hyperthyroidism has increased dramatically to the extent that it is now one of the most common disorders seen in middle-aged to senior domestic cats. Hyperthyroid cat goiters contain single or multiple autonomously (i.e. TSH-independent) functioning and growing thyroid nodules. Thus, hyperthyroidism in cats is clinically and histologically similar to toxic nodular goiter in humans. The disease in cats is mechanistically different from Graves’ disease, because neither the hyperfunction nor growth of these nodules depends on extrathyroidal circulating stimulators. The basic lesion appears to be an excessive intrinsic growth capacity of some thyroid cells, but iodine deficiency, other nutritional goitrogens, or environmental disruptors may play a role in the disease pathogenesis. Clinical features of feline toxic nodular goiter include one or more palpable thyroid nodules, together with signs of hyperthyroidism (e.g. weight loss despite an increased appetite). Diagnosis of feline hyperthyroidism is confirmed by finding the increased serum concentrations of thyroxine and triiodothyronine, undetectable serum TSH concentrations, or increased thyroid uptake of radioiodine. Thyroid scintigraphy demonstrates a heterogeneous pattern of increased radionuclide uptake, most commonly into both thyroid lobes. Treatment options for toxic nodular goiter in cats are similar to that used in humans and include surgical thyroidectomy, radioiodine, and antithyroid drugs. Most authorities agree that ablative therapy with radioiodine is the treatment of choice for most cats with toxic nodular goiter, because the animals are older, and the disease will never go into remission.