"Acromegaly in Cats
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"Acromegaly in Cats

Cats
Health & Safety

Acromegaly is a rare hormonal disorder seen in cats that's caused by too many hormones being produced in their brains or sometimes in their mammary glands. When cats develop the condition, it can gradually alter their appearance, but the trouble is this can happen over a long period of time and as such owners all too often do not realise there is something wrong with their pets. As such, it is more usual for a vet to pick up on the fact a cat is suffering from acromegaly when they carry out a routine health check and would then recommend carrying out further tests.

Symptoms Associated with the Condition

When cats develop acromegaly, they can sometimes show specific signs of there being something wrong with them or their symptoms come on more progressively. The signs to watch out for could include the following:

  • Increase hunger and appetite
  • Increased thirst
  • An increased need to use the litter tray
  • A widening of the face which happens progressively over time
  • Diabetes

The condition tends to affect cats when they reach middle age although older cats too are more predisposed to suffering from acromegaly. A cat suspected of suffering from the condition would need to be treated sooner rather than later to prevent more serious health issues from developing which could include the following:

  • Kidney disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Joint issues
  • Seizures
  • Heart problems

The Causes

As previously mentioned, acromegaly develops because too many growth hormones are produced in a cat's system. The result of this overproduction is that a cat's body tissue is stimulated and grows excessively causing all the damage. When growth hormone levels get too high, it interferes with how insulin works in the body. As a result, cats with the condition often suffer from diabetes too. Studies have also established that some cats develop acromegaly because a small growth has formed in their pituitary gland which prevents it from signalling that enough of the growth hormone has been produced resulting in an over-production.

Diagnosing the Problem

A vet might want to refer a cat suspected of suffering from acromegaly to a specialist although their appearance alone might raise suspicions that they have indeed, developed the condition. The chances are when a cat has the condition, they have already been diagnosed as suffering from diabetes. The sort of tests a vet would recommend carrying out which would help confirm their suspicions could include the following:

  • A complete blood count
  • A full biochemistry profile
  • A urinalysis
  • A serial blood test to establish if a cat is responding to insulin treatment
  • X-rays which would help determine if a cat has an enlarged heart or if changes to kidneys, joints and bones have occurred
  • Ultrasound which would help determine if a cat has an enlarged heart or if changes to kidneys, joints and bones have occurred
  • CT scan to establish if there is a growth on the pituitary gland
  • MRI scan to establish if there is a growth on a cat's pituitary gland

Treatment Options

Should the vet find there is a growth on the pituitary gland, there is not much that can be done as surgery would be extremely challenging because it involves a difficult procedure that involves the area of a cat’s brain. With this said, a vet might recommend radiotherapy which has proved effective treatment option. Cats suffer very few side effects when given radiotherapy unlike their human counterparts. However, a cat would need to have several treatments and they would need to be put under general anaesthetic for the procedures to be carried out which in itself can be a concern.

Prognosis

If a vet can treat a growth successfully, the high levels of growth hormones produced typically drop to normal and the prognosis for a cat tends to be good. However, because the condition is often only picked up in its latter stages, all too often the damage which has been done to other vital organs means the prognosis is not that good for cats suffering from acromegaly and cats already suffering from diabetes would still need to be given their daily insulin injections too.

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