Hypoadrenocorticism in Cats
Hypoadrenocorticism is characterized by deficient production of glucocorticoids (cortisol) and/or mineralocorticoids (aldosterone). Mineralocorticoids and glucocorticoids are hormones normally produced by the adrenal glands, which are located near the kidneys. Both of these hormones are critical to the healthy functioning of the body, and an abnormal increase or decrease of either of these hormones can lead to serious health problems if not addressed in time. Deficient production of both these hormones can affect the nervous system, the gastrointestinal system, the kidneys, or the cardiovascular system, and as a result, can lead to a number of symptoms, notably weakness, dehydration, low blood pressure, depression, heart toxicity, vomiting, blood in feces, and weight loss. No breed predilection is reported in cats, though it is very rarely reported in cats overall.
Symptoms and Types
Symptoms can vary depending on the duration of the problem. Life-threatening symptoms are usually observed in acute episodes of this disease. The following symptoms are commonly observed in cats:
- Adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) deficiency
- Metastatic tumors
- Long term glucocorticoid withdrawal
You will need to give your veterinarian a thorough history of your cat's health and onset of symptoms. Your veterinarian will perform a thorough physical exam on your pet, including routine laboratory tests, a complete blood count, biochemistry profile, and urinalysis. The complete blood count may reveal anemia, an abnormally high number of eosinophils (a type of white blood cells that readily stains with eosin dye), and an increased number of lymphocytes (also a type of white blood cell) called (lymphocytosis).
Serum biochemistry testing may reveal an abnormally higher level of potassium, and an accumulation in the blood of urea - nitrogenous waste products that are usually excreted out of the body through the urine (azotemia). Other findings include lower levels of sodium (hyponatremia) and chloride (hypochloremia), increased levels of calcium (hypercalcemia), increased liver enzymes, including ALT and AST, and low blood sugar (hypoglycemia). The urinalysis may reveal a low concentration of urine. The definitive test for diagnosing this condition is by detecting the levels of cortisol in the body. Normally the adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) is produced by the pituitary gland, which then stimulates the adrenal glands to release their hormones. ACTH can be injected into the body to test the normal response functions of the adrenal glands. If your cat’s adrenal glands do not show an increase in the release of hormones after being given ACTH, then the diagnosis of hypoadrenocorticism will be confirmed. Visual diagnostic procedures, like X-ray and ultrasound, may reveal smaller than normal adrenal glands.
A medical condition involving excessive thirst
The gland that is found at the bottom of the brain whose job is to maintain appropriate levels of hormones in the blood
The product of protein being metabolized; can be found in blood or urine.
An in-depth examination of the properties of urine; used to determine the presence or absence of illness
A heightened number of lymphocytic leukocytes in the blood of an animal
The prediction of a disease’s outcome in advance
Low amounts of glucose in the blood
The condition of having urea and other nitrogenous elements in an animal's blood.
A condition of the blood in which normal red blood cell counts or hemoglobin are lacking.
The amount of pressure applied by the blood on the arteries.
A medical condition in which the body has lost fluid or water in excessive amounts
The digestive tract containing the stomach and intestine
Term used to imply that a situation or condition is more severe than usual; also used to refer to a disease having run a short course or come on suddenly.