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Amyloidosis In Cats

Amyloidosis is a rare genetic condition that affects some breeds more than others. Cats suffering from the condition have what is known as amyloid deposits in their kidneys which can seriously impact their function. Amyloids are a sort of inert protein and it can cause chronic kidney disease. Just how a cat inherits amyloidosis remains a bit of a mystery, but what is known is that certain breeds like the Abyssinian appear to be more predisposed to developing the disorder which is typically when they are around six years of age or under.

Breeds Most at Risk

As previously mentioned, there are certain breeds that seem to be prone to inheriting the disorder than others and this includes the following breeds:

Symptoms to Watch Out For

When a cat develops systemic amyloidosis, the protein deposits form in their kidneys, but they can also form in other organs in the body and this includes the following:

  • Intestines
  • Liver

When the deposits are found in a cat's kidneys, it leads to chronic kidney disease. However, when they form in the liver, cats develop a condition known as hepatomegaly which sees the organ become enlarged, distended and fragile. This can lead to the liver rupturing which in turn results in bleeding into a cat's abdomen which often proves fatal. With this said, the most common signs of there being something wrong could include the following:

  • A lack of energy, lethargy
  • A loss of appetite, anorexia
  • An increased thirst - which is referred to as polyuria
  • An increased desire to urinate - which is referred to as polydipsia
  • Vomiting
  • Enlarged abdomen
  • Yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes
  • Swollen limbs
  • Joint pain
  • Head pressing
  • Abdominal pain

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The Causes

Research has suggested that the disorder develops as a result of a cat’s genes forming abnormal structures of the amyloid protein, but other factors could play a part in why some breeds are more predisposed to inheriting the disorder than others and this includes the following:

  • Infection
  • Environmental factors
  • Familial immune disease - genetics
  • Bacterial endocarditis - an inflammation of the inner part of a cat's heart
  • Chronic inflammation
  • Tumours

Any of the above can cause systemic inflammation within a cat's body and this in turn means they produce more of the damaging protein which then forms deposits in their vital organs.

Diagnosing the Problem

A vet would need to have a cat's full medical history and ideally know their lineage too. They would also need to be told how the symptoms first manifested themselves to confirm a diagnosis. The sort of tests a vet might recommend carrying out could include the following:

  • A full physical examination
  • A complete blood chemical profile - this would show if a cat has liver or kidney problems
  • A complete blood count - this would show up if a cat is anaemic which could be an indication of internal bleeding or that they may be suffering from some other long-term disorder. It could also be a sign that a cat might have developed some kind of infection
  • A urinalysis - this would show if a cat has developed any sort of renal disorder
  • An electrolyte panel
  • X-rays - this would show if there are any abnormalities in a cat’s organs where amyloid deposits have formed
  • Biopsies on affected organs

A vet may also want to carry out a clotting profile on blood they have taken to see if a cat's liver is working as it should. If a cat's joints are swollen, a joint tap may be taken with an end goal being to rule out if the cells are malignant or benign. A vet might also need to take fluid from a cat's abdomen which would also be analysed in a laboratory to confirm a diagnosis.

Treating the Condition

Unfortunately, there is no cure for amyloidosis, however, supportive care is essential. A vet might suggest giving a cat blood transfusions if they have lost too much blood as a result of having developed amyloidosis. Diet is also important and as such, a cat would need to be fed appropriately making sure their fluid levels never fall goo low. With this said, a vet could well tailor a diet to suit a cat's condition and this would depend on how their organs have been affected. If a cat has suffered a ruptured liver, they may need to undergo surgery to correct the damaged organ.

Living with a Cat with Amyloidosis

Because there is no cure for the condition, the prognosis is never that good. If a cat survives any sort of serious damage to the liver, they do not usually live for very long because of they typically they suffer total renal failure. A vet would need to regularly check a cat's liver function even after they have been successfully treated and plan supportive care accordingly.


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