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One cause identified in surge of feline hyperthyroidism

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  • AnimalAdvocacy@yahoogroups.com
    One cause identified in surge of feline hyperthyroidism http://timesunion.com/AspStories/storyprint.asp?StoryID=616603 Albany Times-Union Friday, August 24,
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 26 6:19 PM
      One cause identified in surge of feline hyperthyroidism


      Albany Times-Union Friday, August 24, 2007

      Sick cats sound human alarm
      Feline hyperthyroidism linked to household chemical that may be
      harmful to people, especially kids

      By BRIAN NEARING, Staff writer
      Click byline for more stories by writer.

      GUILDERLAND -- Dr. Kelly Cooper sees a lot of cats with the telltale
      symptoms. They are hungry all the time, drop weight no matter how much
      they eat and can't get enough water.

      Feline hyperthyroidism almost unknown in cats as recently as the 1970s
      is now practically an epidemic, and a new study points to a link with
      a toxic chemical flame retardant common in U.S. homes. It may
      potentially harm the liver and nervous system and pose a risk to
      humans, especially youngsters, though experts say more study is needed.

      The nation's most numerous pet, which served as a sentinel in the
      recent tainted pet food scandal, also may be the canary in the coal
      mine for the health risk linked to the flame retardant, according to a
      study this month by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Indiana
      University and the University of Georgia.

      "We probably have three cats a day coming in that have the disease"
      said Cooper, who practices at the Just Cats Veterinary Clinic in
      Guilderland. "About 30 to 50 percent of our cats over age 10 are
      dealing with it."

      Polybrominated diphenyl ethers, or PBDEs, which slow the rate of fire
      ignition and growth, have been used since the late 1970s in items like
      furniture, carpet padding, computers and cellphones.

      The constant grooming cats do is likely causing them to swallow
      PBDE-tainted household dust, according to the study, which was
      published in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Science and

      Of 23 house cats included in the study, 11 had hyperthyroidism, with
      some cats having PBDE blood levels from 20 to 100 times higher than
      normal human level in previous North American studies. The liver of a
      cat is less effective at detoxification than those of other animals,
      including humans and dogs.

      The EPA study also raised questions about risks to children, who are
      more prone than adults to place household objects in their mouths.
      Cats and human beings are the only mammals with a high rate of
      hyperthyroidism, although in cats, the condition is most often linked
      to a tumor, while in humans, it is usually caused by an immune disorder.

      Hyperthyroidism is overactivity of the thyroid, a gland that regulates
      the body's metabolic rate. It is treatable in cats through medication,
      radiation therapy or surgery.

      "It is very concerning that cats and humans have high levels of PBDEs
      in their bodies and we need to study it further," said Dr. Louise
      Murray, director of medicine at the American Society for the
      Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

      While the study raises questions, Murray said that it is difficult to
      know whether better veterinary care and testing rather than a surge in
      the illness is behind the increased number of reported cases in recent

      "Cats are now routinely tested for this, even if they have just lost a
      couple of ounces of weight," said Murray. Regardless, it is not known
      what causes the illness or the tumor that sparks it, she said.

      In 2004, the sole U.S. manufacturer of the types of PBDEs included in
      the study agreed to phase out production because of concern about
      toxicity in animals, but many homes have items that contain the chemical.

      EPA's Web site reports "growing evidence that PBDEs persist in the
      environment and accumulate in living organisms" and may damage the
      thyroid, liver and nervous system.

      "The sudden emergence of feline hyperthyroidism is one of the major
      mysteries of the last 30 years in veterinary medicine," said Richard
      Goldstein, associate professor of small animal medicine at Cornell

      "There was almost no feline hyperthyroidism prior to the 1970s, and
      what cases there usually happened from a thyroid tumor," he said. "Now
      it is the most common endocrine disease in cats."

      "After being found in the U.S., it wasn't in Europe at all, and then
      it started to show up. It became common in different areas at
      different times, and came late to some areas, like central Europe,"
      said Goldstein.

      Previous studies have found links between indoor dust exposure and
      PBDE levels in first-time mothers in the Boston area. Another found
      PBDE levels in Americans are three to 10 times higher than in
      Europeans. And small studies in California and Norway show that
      children have higher PBDE levels than adults.

      In 2004, the European Union banned two types of PBDEs because of
      health concerns, and is studying the remaining type before taking any

      This spring, Washington became the first state to ban the use of all
      forms of PBDEs in mattresses beginning next year. A ban on their use
      in televisions, computers and residential furniture will be enacted in
      2011 provided a safer, technically feasible substitute is found for
      making the items fireproof.

      Nearing can be reached at 454-5094 or by e-mail at
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