Hyperadrenocorticism (Cushing’s Disease) In Cats

Cushing’s disease is when the adrenal glands produce too much cortisol and is often the result of a cancer. This cancer, about 80 percent of the time, resides in the pituitary gland and causes the cats adrenals to continue to produce more hormone than is needed. In the remaining 20 percent of the time, it is caused by a cancer that is located in part of the adrenal gland itself.

Cats who are in their middle to older years, especially females, are usually seen with this problem. The first clinical signs of Cushing’s are usually an increase in drinking and urination, with urine that is very dilute. Around 75 percent of these cats will have¬†diabetes mellitus as well. The cat may have a potbellied appearance as well as a have a haircoat in poor condition and skin that is easily damaged.

Diagnosis of Cushing’s will involve blood work and an ultrasound may be done to show an adrenal tumor.

Treatment usually involves surgery to treat tumors of both the adrenal and pituitary glands and should be done at a referral center by an experienced surgeon only. If the cat has both adrenal glands removed, she will need to be on supplements for the rest of her life to replace the adrenal secretions. These supplements include glucocorticoids and mineralocorticoids. For nonsurgical treatment, trilostane and mitotane have been used. These drugs will affect the amount of cortisol that is produced by the adrenal glands.

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