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Addison's Disease in Cats

Addison's disease is a condition that can affect hormone production leading to complications for organs such as the kidneys. Here, our Bedford vets share some vital information about the causes and signs of Addison's disease in cats, how it is diagnosed and what can be done to manage the symptoms.

What is Addison's Disease?

Addison's disease is a serious kidney disease that occurs when the adrenal glands don't produce enough steroids for the body to function healthily. The adrenal glands regulate the hormones and sugar levels throughout the body, so damage to these glands can lead to organ irritation and failure throughout the body, as well as weakness and blood disease.

In cats, Addison's disease is not very common, but it is still a condition that owners should be able to recognize in its early stages. Prompt diagnosis and treatment are key when it comes to this condition.

Below, our veterinarians at Fine Animal Hospital discuss what causes Addison's disease in cats, its signs and symptoms, and how it is treated.

Causes of Addison's Disease in Cats

There are a few underlying health issues that can lead to Addison's disease developing in felines, including:

  • Damage to the adrenal glands
  • Cancer (either originating from or spreading to the kidneys)
  • Kidney tumors
  • Glucocorticoid (steroid) withdrawal

Signs & Symptoms of Addison's Disease

Addison's disease is a serious condition, and as such, it can have negative impacts on your cat's bodily health and behavior. Below are some common symptoms of Addison's disease that you should bring your cat to the vet for right away if you notice any of them in your feline friend:

  • Lethargy
  • Frequent urination
  • Chronic thirst
  • Depression
  • Blood in feces
  • Hair loss 
  • Abdominal pain
  • Weak pulse
  • Lack of appetite and food avoidance
  • Vomiting
  • Weight loss
  • Diarrhea
  • Shaking
  • Low temperature

Diagnosing Addison's Disease in Cats

Addison's disease will be diagnosed through both an evaluation of the symptoms and blood tests. The blood tests are used to look for:

  • Anemia (low red blood cell count)
  • Changes in white blood cell patterns
  • Increase in white blood cells

Your vet will also use other types of tests to look for an increase in blood urea nitrogen (BUN) and phosphorus as well as electrolyte imbalances. 

ACTH Test for Cats

If your vet determines that Addison's disease is a possibility, they will order an ACTH (adrenocorticotropic hormone) test to evaluate the adrenal function. This ACTH hormone is produced by the pituitary gland, which acts on the adrenals to produce cortisol (another hormone).

Some other tests that your vet may perform include:

  • Urinalysis to look for evidence of kidney disease and concentration of the urine
  • Blood pressure to diagnose hypotension and response to IV fluid therapy
  • Chest X-rays to look for heart issues
  • ECG to determine the presence of arrhythmias and evidence of electrolyte issues

Treatment of Addison’s Disease in Cats

While there is currently no cure for Addison's disease, your cat's condition can still be managed, allowing them to lead a long, healthy life. Steroid replacement therapy is commonly used to manage this condition in cats.

For severe symptoms like dehydration, hypovolemia, anemia, vomiting, or electrolyte derangements, your vet may recommend aggressive fluid therapy and blood transfusions. Your cat may require medication and/or hospitalization.

Recovery & Management of Addison’s Disease in Cats

Your cat will need to attend follow-up visits where your vet will monitor the effects of the medication and adjust dosages as needed. This will occur until the right regimen has been determined.

Every three to four months you will likely need to bring your cat in for routine testing to ensure that treatment is working as it should and that your cat continues to remain stable.

If you anticipate a stressful period in your home that may affect your cat you should speak with your vet about more frequent monitoring and/or changes to their treatment during this time.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

If your cat is showing any concerning signs pointing to any medical condition including Addison's disease, please contact our Bedford veterinarians to schedule an examination.

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