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Strange fluid-filled cyst on throat

post #1 of 29
Thread Starter 
My 14-year old cat, Woody, has an odd cyst on his throat that our vet has been unable to diagnose. It's on the left side of his neck, and because I don't want to risk surgery unless absolutely necessary, the vet has just been aspirating it every three weeks or so. The vet withdraws about 15 cc of cola-colored fluid with each aspiration, and the cyst refills in about 3 days.

The cyst doesn't interfere with his breathing or eating, and he doesn't seem to be uncomfortable from it but will occasionally cough like he's trying to clear his throat. He doesn't mind the aspirations.

We've had the fluid analyzed -- nothing notable -- and a full blood profile has been done, too. His white blood cell count was slightly elevated, so we put him on antibiotics, but they didn't help.

Woody's an indoor cat, and his only 'health' problem has been that he's extremely sensitive (nervous vomiting) and exhibits many characteristics of FHS (Feline Hyperesthesia Syndrome).

Has anyone else experienced this with their pet?
post #2 of 29
I have never experienced this, but just wanted to wish you and your kitty the best. I hope someone comes along that might know something about this.
post #3 of 29
Spot had a small cyst on his back that would always come back, though it took longer. With his, the fluid was more like a pale yellow or off white. Did the blood panel include a thyroid screening? Since this cyst is near the thyroid area, it seems like it could be related, especially if the T4 levels were high.
post #4 of 29
I had a cat, Juniper. that got cysts on his throat that we used to empty. But eventually one turned cancerous, and was removed. Sadly it came back and eventually nothing could be done. I always wonder now if the flea collar he wore all his life had anything to do with it. I didn't know better then.
post #5 of 29
Thread Starter 
I just got back from having Woody's cyst drained, and today they told me they aspirated nearly 60 cc of fluid -- I think that's about a quarter of a cup! He's a big cat, but that's still a lot of fluid, and the vet still has no diagnosis for it. Not a thyroid problem, not cancer, not a swollen gland, just a weird cyst. I've started him on antibiotics just in case the frequent aspirations introduce bacteria into the cyst. So for now, we just watch and wait.

Thanks for your suggestions and concerns.
post #6 of 29
have you considered bringing him to another vet for a second opinion? I mean I know you say he seems to be doing well with it but man thats got my curiosity up wondering what that cyst could be and why it keeps filling up. Its not uncommon even with antibiotics but still, that has me scratching my head
post #7 of 29
Healing vibes to you and Woody. I hope the vet can determine what is causing the cyst and cure it. It has to be a strain on both of you to have the cyst aspirated so often. If his white cell count is elevated is he fighting an infection of some kind that is not readily apparent? Are there any more tests the vet can do? It seems like something is going on with Woody that hasn't been diagnosed. Good luck to both of you.
post #8 of 29
Thread Starter 
All of Woody's bloodwork and cyst-fluid analysis was done at our state's Veterinary University lab. It showed he's in good health (not diabetic, no kidney disease, no cancer, no immune deficiency), and all that my vet and his staff could conclude from the slightly-elevated white blood cell count was that this cyst may be an allergic reaction to something (but we don't know what). Both my vet and I agree that the only way to really get rid of the cyst may be to do it surgically, but it's risky surgery because of it's location near his carotid artery and esophagus. He said that even though it isn't cancerous, he'd recommend that I contact an oncologist to evaluate Woody for surgery because only an oncologist would have the necessary skills to perform the surgery. I did call the oncologist, but am reluctant to proceed until absolutely necessary because of the risk.

As a side note, I mentioned that the vet thought this might be an allergic reaction to something, but I'm wondering if it's stress-related. My husband and I recently retired, and have more time to spend at our cottage. We never took our cats with us before because we were never gone long enough to justify disrupting their 'routine'. But this past year, we started taking both of our cats with us when we go, mostly because of Woody. In recent years, he would get so stressed out when we'd be gone on vacayion that he would vomit and/or refuse to use the little box, even though we had family coming over once or twice a day to take care of them. Not good for him, and not good for his caregivers!

Woody loves to travel in our van, but he's mostly a homebody and I know he'd just as soon not go to the cottage. Our other cat, Madjka, doesn't like to travel so much, but she loves being at the cottage as much as she likes being at home. I love having them both with me wherever we're at, but it's been a real dilemma to know what's best for both of them.

When we travel, we keep them things as regular for them as possible -- I bring their food, food dishes, toys, even water from home -- so that everything is as familar as possible. We travel through the night if we have to so that Woody doesn't gets stressed out staying in a motel (which happened the one time we tried it). And while it takes Woody a week or so to finally get comfortable at the cottage, he does seem to be okay with it.
Meanwhile, Madjka is having so much fun that the contrast is like night and day.

With his history of being easily stressed, I'm wondering if that's what caused this mysterious cyst...and that's why I'm hoping that it'll eventually go away on it's own...
post #9 of 29
hmm, that very well could be stress. Well at least you got everything else ruled out such as cancer. Maybe with a little tlc and patience he will adjust. Keep us posted
post #10 of 29
Thread Starter 
I decided to take Woody to see the oncologist, who, after reviewing the tests on Woody's cyst (including an ultrasound and xrays) and consulting with the surgeon, felt that surgery was the best option for treating the cyst. In addition to it pushing his throat and windpipe way out of place, continually aspirating it could introduce bacteria into the cyst, which would definitely make it worst. She also said that if it continued to grow, there would be a point where it could no longer be safely removed.

So, they removed it today, but found that it was not as easy to excise as expected. It evidently was attached to a number of structures in the throat and in his chest cavity (it was 4 inches long!), but fortunately was not attached to the esophagus or windpipe.

The surgeon felt it was probably a thyroid tumor, because while it was mostly fluid-filled, there was some tumor growth involved. He told me that even though Woody had normal T4 levels, he could still have a thyroid problem. Anyway, he said that it was best to wait and see what the pathology shows, but of course, now I'm reading anything I can on thyroid tumors.

Happily, Woody came through the surgery just fine -- if all goes well, I'll get to bring him home tomorrow!
post #11 of 29
Speedy recovery wishes for Woody!
post #12 of 29
Sending lots of good vibes to Woody.
post #13 of 29
Sending speedy recovery vibes for Woody and hugs to you. Keep us posted on how he's doing.
post #14 of 29
Sending prayers from Mississippi for Woody and for you and your husband. I hope he gets to come home tomorrow. Please keep us posted on how he is doing.
post #15 of 29
More quick recovery vibes and hugs for you and Woody.
post #16 of 29
Way to go Woody!! Wishing you all speedy recovery
post #17 of 29
A speedy recovery for Woody! It is obviously a good thing you had him operated on now - it would have been awful if things had got worse. As I said in my previous post, my cat Juniper had cysts that turned cancerous.
post #18 of 29
Thread Starter 
It's taken me awhile to get back with news about Woody because it wasn't good news. It turns out that the benign cyst was attached to a malignant thyroid tumor. Thyroid carcinomas are so extremely rare in cats that it just wasn't something anyone considered, and I'm having a hard time dealing with it emotionally. And while Woody survived the operation to remove the cyst, the tumor and a lymph node (where the tumor had already spread), he's having problems when he purrs too much -- it's like he starts to choke and needs to clear his throat. I can't even pick him up and cuddle him because he starts purring too much and chokes. He's fine otherwise -- has no problems breathing or eating or meowing -- but a cat should be able to purr as much as he wants, and it breaks my heart to see him struggle.

The doctors are optimistic, and think his purring problem may lessen over time as that area continues to heal. And as for the cancer: we're going to try radioactive iodine therapy , which is what is usually used to treat benign thyroid tumors. Only, the vet will use a higher dosage, and the theory is that it'll kill not only the remaining thyroid tumor, but also any cancerous thyroid cells that may have spread through the lymphatic system. While this means he may end up with hypothyroidism and will need to take thyroid medication, this treatment is potentially more successful than chemo. It also has fewer side affects than chemo or radiation.

It's so hard to know the right thing to do. I just want Woody to live a happy life for as long as he can. The surgeon and oncologist think he's doing really good, but I can tell that he's not his old self right now. I'm hoping the iodine therapy will change that.

In the mean time, I'm doing a lot of praying!
post #19 of 29
I hope the treatment works for you. Sending many vibes and Hugs your way.
post #20 of 29
I'm sorry to hear the news, but I hope that the treatment is successful. ANd that Woody recovers all of his old personality.
post #21 of 29
Aw, I'm sorry you don't have better news on Woody. Sending healing vibes to Woody and hugs to you.
post #22 of 29
Thread Starter 
I thought I'd let everyone know that Woody is doing GREAT! His radioactive iodine therapy was very successful. It turned out that Woody had bilateral thyroid tumors: the one on the left side of his neck that was mostly removed by surgery, plus one on the other side of his neck that had already spread far down into his chest cavity. Both tumors are now gone, except for a small area by the right thyroid, and that could just be scar tissue. Cancer cells had also travelled to his lungs (the vet said that this often happens if the tumor spread to the lymph nodes, which it had), but those spots have not grown/changed since his treatment; they are considered 'inactive'.

All of Woody's labwork has come back normal, so he doesn't need to be on any medication. And, another great thing: he's starting to have an easier time purring, so I'm hopeful that the nerve that was affected by his surgery has finally started to recover. He's getting back to being his old self!

I'm so glad that we decided to go ahead with this treatment. It was very expensive; I doubt that insurance would have been available to cover the cost because of Woody's age, anyway. Still, he's a member of the family, and I'm very grateful that we found a veterinary hospital that was able to take care of him.

Thanks again for your encouragement!
post #23 of 29
Glad to hear Woody is doing much better!
post #24 of 29
Wonderful news!!!
post #25 of 29
Congrats, I am SO glad to hear Woody is doing well!
post #26 of 29
I'm so glad to hear the good news about Woody! Positive thoughts and healthy vibes on the way for continued progress.
post #27 of 29
Wow -- I was beginning to dread the end of this thread!

Even though I KNOW in humans, thyroid malignancies are highly successfully treated!

I WAS SO RELIEVED to reach the end and see he is doing well!

post #28 of 29



I am in the UK. My cat is 14 and recently developed a large cyst in her throat. Trouble meowing, and deeper voice. She also seemed to choke at times.

the Vet said it is some kind of cyst. the blood work was ok, but her white cells a bit raised. They think the only option is surgery. They hardly do any radioactive iodine treatment here. We are in the dark ages and people do not spend such huge amounts of moneyin the UK, not as much money goes into animal care. Difficult decision. Don't want to puther through surgery she might not recover from.   Fluid aspirates so far show no cancer as such, but cystic fluid. Could be follicular. The position is the issue, as it is right on her throat near her larynx.   I have to get some more tests done, but am already wiped out financially. Terrible when it comes down to money. I had no insurance as she is my Mum's cat, and Mum passed away recently, so I took the cat on, and felt it would be cruel to rehome her.   

post #29 of 29

Thank for posting all of this. I have a very similar situation and plan to print this out to take with me on my next visit to the vet.

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