Cats and Addison's Disease

Skinny cat walking on concrete

Adrenal gland illness is known as Addison's disease. Aldosterone synthesis, a crucial steroid hormone, is lowered as a result. Addison's disease may affect many species, including humans and dogs, although it seldom affects cats. When it happens, it typically affects cats in their middle years and causes symptoms including vomiting, weight loss, lethargy, and loss of appetite. If Addison's disease is not treated, it may eventually result in renal failure or shock in the cat. Fortunately, most cats may enjoy normal lives if they receive treatment before the condition worsens, but they will always need to take medicine.

What Is Addison's Disease?

The adrenal glands are affected by Addison's disease, sometimes referred to as hypoadrenocorticism. These tiny glands, which are situated just in front of the kidneys, provide a number of hormones that are essential for maintaining healthy bodily functions. When the adrenal glands are unable to generate enough aldosterone, Addison's disease develops. This steroid hormone is essential for keeping the blood's potassium and salt levels in check. Low aldosterone synthesis causes the cat's blood to amass too much potassium and too little sodium, which can cause problems with the heart and other organs.

Symptoms of Addison's Disease in Cats

Cats with Addison's disease might not always be ill until the condition has advanced. Your cat may first go through phases of health followed by lethargy, vomiting, weight loss, and lack of appetite.


The earliest symptoms of Addison's disease in many cats are sporadic bouts of lethargy, lack of appetite, and weight loss, making it simple to miss the condition. Additionally, some cats get episodes of vomiting. When these are typical signs of many mild illnesses, many cat owners don't think it's significant enough to take their cats to the doctor, especially since the cat usually looks healthy in between episodes of illness.

Unfortunately, if the disease is not addressed, it may worsen and eventually cause an adrenal crisis, or collapse of the adrenal glands, which results in kidney failure and shock in the cat. Extreme weakness, a sluggish heartbeat, and severe dehydration are the common symptoms of this. Without immediate veterinary attention, the cat is currently in danger of passing away.

Causes of Addison's Disease

Cats seldom develop Addison's disease. It is believed to be caused by an autoimmune disorder in which the body's immune system assaults the adrenal glands, resulting in damage that lowers hormone production. Although it is extremely rare, it can also happen if a cat has an adrenal gland mass or tumor.

Diagnosing Addison's Disease in Cats

Your veterinarian will do a thorough physical examination on the cat in order to make the diagnosis of Addison's disease. A set of diagnostic tests will be advised if Addison's disease is suspected to examine organ function and search for any signs of illness. The cat will often have extremely low salt levels and very high blood levels of potassium. Kidney function blood tests may potentially be unreliable.

Your veterinarian will probably additionally request an ACTH (adrenocorticotropic hormone stimulation) test to confirm the diagnosis. The cat's reaction to an infusion of ACTH will be monitored during the test. A cat with Addison's disease will react to the injection with less hormone response.


The course of treatment depends depend on how severe Addison's disease is in your cat. IV fluids will be used as part of emergency care if the cat is experiencing an adrenal crisis or shock in order to treat dehydration and return electrolyte levels to normal. Your veterinarian may also begin an emergency steroid regimen.

Oftentimes, hormone replacement therapy can begin as soon as the animal is stable. Since there is no known treatment for Addison's disease, lifelong drug management is required. A steroid, like prednisone or hydrocortisone, and a mineralocorticoid drug, like DOCP, which helps control blood levels of electrolytes like salt and potassium, are typically required for your cat. These two drugs will be given to most cats for the remainder of their lives. Both can be administered as a daily tablet or a long-lasting injection.

When your cat is likely to be agitated, such as during a relocation, when introducing a new pet to the home, or when your cat has to stay at a kennel or boarding facility, your veterinarian may advise modifying medicines. This is because stressful situations can create an adrenal crisis.

Prognosis for Cats With Addison's Disease

Most cats with Addison's disease enjoy quite normal lives when given therapy. However, they will need more regular veterinarian examinations than the typical cat. Cats that encounter an adrenal crisis or who have Addison's disease brought on by a tumor rather than an inflammatory condition have a worse prognosis.

How to Prevent Addison's Disease

Addison's disease in cats cannot be anticipated or avoided since it results from an unusual immunological reaction. However, feeding your cat a balanced diet, controlling your weight, giving your cat chances for play and exercise, and taking your cat to the doctor on a regular basis may all help keep your pet healthy and fend against additional conditions that can worsen your cat's overall quality of life.

If you suspect your pet is sick, call your vet immediately. For health-related questions, always consult your veterinarian, as they have examined your pet, know the pet's health history, and can make the best recommendations for your pet.


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