Hyperadrenocorticism in Cats
Cushing’s syndrome (hyperadrenocorticism) occurs when the adrenal gland produces too much cortisol. While cortisol is an essential hormone, elevated levels lead to illness. There are several possible causes to this disease, including a tumor in the pituitary gland or the outer layer of the adrenal gland. Although the disease is rare in cats, it is more likely to affect middle-aged or older cats and females more than males. Breed, however, does not seem to be a determining factor. In addition, diabetes almost always accompanies the ailment.
- Excessive urination (polyuria)
- Excessive thirst (polydipsia)
- Excessive eating (polyphagia)
- Weight loss or gain
- Enlarged liver (hepatomegaly)
- Fragile skin
- Symmetrical hair loss
- Enlargement of the abdomen
- Curled ear tips
- Unkempt appearance
- Weakness (lethargy)
- Changes in sexual behavior
- Tumor in the pituitary gland
- Tumor in an adrenal gland
- Age of the cat
The tests listed below may be used to determine the underlying cause of your pet's disease:
- Complete blood count (CBC)
- Chemistry analysis
- Blood pressure check
- X-rays of chest and abdomen
- Ultrasound (abdominal)
- Hormone tests
- Cortisol level tests
- MRI of the abdomen
Treatment options are limited. Medical therapy has not been shown to be very effective, but surgical removal of the affected adrenal gland, or both affected glands, is usually recommended. The surgery will require hospitalization.
Living and Management
Medication is generally necessary for the remainder of the cat’s life to compensate for the removal of the adrenal glands. Your veterinarian will give explicit instructions for administering these medications, and those instructions should be carefully followed. Cats generally do not tolerate the medications very well, so working out the dosage is complicated.
Pay close attention to the amount of water the cat is drinking and how much is being eliminated through urine. In addition, look for vomiting and/or diarrhea along with weakness, disorientation, and lethargy. Laboratory tests will determine insulin requirements and oral medications. Frequent blood tests will be required after surgery, as well as an evaluation several times a year.
Nothing can be done to prevent this disease. But if your cat is diabetic, ask your veterinarian to check to see if Cushing’s disease is the cause.
A medical condition involving excessive thirst
Excessive eating or swallowing
The gland that is found at the bottom of the brain whose job is to maintain appropriate levels of hormones in the blood
The condition of being drowsy, listless, or weak
An enlargement of the liver to an abnormal size
A hormone created by the pancreas that helps to regulate the flow of glucose
The gland that produces the hormone adrenaline and others; helps to regulate the metabolism, electrolytes, and even sexual function; also helps to regulate the way the body responds to injury, trauma, etc. The adrenal gland is found near the kidney. Also referred to as the suprarenal gland.