Cushing’s Disease in Cats

Hyperadrenocorticism, or Cushing’s disease, is a condition in which the adrenal glands overproduce and secrete the hormone cortisol. The endocrine system is a collective system of glands that helps produce and secrete hormones in the body. Within this intricate system are the adrenal glands.

These organs are located near the kidneys and help produce hormones that help regulate bodily functions, such as cortisol. Cortisol is a chemical that is responsible for handling stress, control weight, and keeping blood sugar regulated, and also helps to reduce inflammation.

When a pet’s body produces too much of this hormone, it can cause serious health concerns that could lead to more life-threatening scenarios. Although this is an uncommon disease for cats to contract, senior-aged cats, predisposed breeds, or any underlying medical condition can increase your cat’s susceptibility to the disease.

Not all symptoms related to this endocrine disorder are apparent in every cat; warning signs are more difficult to spot during the earliest stage of development. When a cat develops Cushing’s disease, it is usually in concurrence with diabetes. Here is an overview of the most commonly observed symptoms seen in infected cats:

• Excessive Urination
• Weight gain
• Increased Thirst
• Distended abdomen
• Lethargy
• Overeating
• Panting
• Hair Loss

In Healthy Cats, the brain’s pituitary gland creates the hormone adrenocorticotropic (ACTH), which helps to stimulate the adrenal glands to secrete cortisol into the bloodstream, which in turn aids in maintaining bodily systems such as the metabolism, nervous system, immune system, and kidneys. When there is a benign or cancerous tumor in the pituitary or adrenal gland, excess glucocorticoid is being secreted.

There are three forms of Cushing’s disease; adrenal-based hyperadrenocorticism, pituitary-dependent hyperadrenocorticism, and iatrogenic hyperadrenocorticism;

• Adrenal-based hyperadrenocorticism: This condition develops when an adrenal tumor causes an overproduction of glucocorticoids.
• Pituitary-dependent hyperadrenocorticism occurs as a result of the overproduction of ACTH by the pituitary gland.
• Iatrogenic hyperadrenocorticism develops if a cat has been prescribed excessive amounts of steroid medication for a prolonged time.

If you suspect your cat has Cushing’s disease, please call to schedule an appointment at your nearest World of Animals Hospital. Blood tests can confirm the condition, and your veterinarian can discuss treatment options.