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Understanding Addison’s Disease in Cats: Expert Insights and Joii Pet Care Solutions

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Addison’s Disease in cats

Rare but potentially fatal, Addison’s disease affects the adrenal glands and can be contracted by your cat. Addison’s disease is more common in middle-aged cats, but it can affect cats of any age, gender, or breed.

Hypoadrenocorticism, or Addison’s disease, occurs when the adrenal glands in your cat become diseased and stop producing adequate steroid hormone. All animals rely heavily on steroid hormones. It is difficult to diagnose Addison’s disease in its early stages because the symptoms are nonspecific and come and go. Although Addison’s cannot be cured, it is manageable with long-term therapy. As unfortunate as it is, the disease can lead to a life-threatening emergency known as a “Addisonian crisis” if it is not properly diagnosed and managed.

What is Addison’s disease in cats?

The adrenal glands are affected by Addison’s disease. You’ll find these two tiny organs in your cat’s lower abdomen, close to their kidneys. Cortisol and aldosterone are two steroid hormones that are produced by the adrenal glands. Many bodily processes that are critical to the health of your cat rely on these hormones. When these hormones are abnormally low in your cat’s system, Addison’s disease symptoms appear.

How does Addison’s disease develop?

⦁ Your cat’s adrenal glands get damaged

⦁ Cortisol and aldosterone levels fall to dangerously low levels

⦁ Many of your cat’s cells and body systems stop working properly

⦁ Vague signs of illness develop

⦁ Vital organs such as heart and kidneys may fail if the condition is not recognised and treated

The body’s defense cells have the potential to cause harm to the adrenal glands. The body can develop an immune system that mistakenly assaults its own tissues. Addison’s disease in cats is typically brought on by what is known as an autoimmune disorder. Exactly why this occurs is a mystery to them. A defective gene could be to blame.

Symptoms of Addison’s disease in cats

Early-stage Addison’s disease symptoms in cats are nonspecific. They could occur intermittently over a period of months.

Symptoms include:

  • Poor appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Weakness and low energy (lethargy)
  • Weight loss
  • Drinking more and urinating (peeing) more
  • “Just not right”

The main symptom of an Addisonian crisis is collapse.

Other symptoms of an Addisonian crisis include:

  • Weakness
  • Abdominal pain
  • Pale gums
  • Slow heartbeat and breathing
  • Cold feet and ears
  • Loss of consciousness

Call your local animal hospital immediately if you find your cat has collapsed.

Are some cats more at risk of Addison’s than others?

Cats almost never develop Addison’s disease. Since it was initially identified in cats in 1983, there have only been a few dozens confirmed instances.

Addison’s disease can affect cats of any age, gender, or breed. The risk increases after age 40.

Addison’s disease poses little threat to humans or other household pets.

How do vets diagnose Addison’s disease in cats?

Symptoms of Addison’s disease fluctuate and might be mistaken for those of other, more common diseases, making early diagnosis challenging.

In animals, Addison’s disease is diagnosed by:

  • symptoms
  • urine tests
  • blood tests
    • routine bloodwork includes checks for inflammation, electrolytes (sodium and potassium), and liver and kidney function.
    • specific blood tests:  to check your cat’s steroid hormone production
  • an ECG to check your cat’s heart
  • an ultrasound scan of your cat’s tummy to examine the adrenal glands in more detail

Cats with Addison’s disease are frequently not diagnosed until they are taken to the doctor because of extreme dehydration or collapse.

Emergency treatment for acute (sudden) Addison’s disease

  • Fluids given directly into your cat’s veins for rehydration
  • Correction of sodium and potassium levels in the bloodstream
  • Emergency steroid injections to replace essential cortisol

Longterm treatment for Addison’s disease

  • monthly injections to replace the hormone aldosterone
  • daily tablets to replace the hormone cortisol (see footnote)

The hormone cortisol aids your cat’s body in handling stressful situations. Anything that stresses your cat could make their symptoms worse if they don’t have enough of this hormone. You can prevent this by giving your cat a higher dose of their regular steroid medication around times of increased stress, including when visitors are coming over or when they are sick.

After your cat’s condition has stabilized thanks to medication, he or she will still require annual or semiannual veterinary examinations and bloodwork.

The good news is that most cats do well under treatment and go on to lead happy, healthy lives.

Unfortunately, not all cats with Addison’s disease respond well to treatment, and those that do often suffer from additional ailments at the same time. It may be more humane to euthanize cats with Addison’s disease that cannot be handled safely and successfully.

Tips on how to prevent an Addisonian crisis in cats

The most important thing to do if your cat has been diagnosed with Addison’s disease is to keep an Addisonian crisis from occurring.

Avoid an Addisonian emergency by doing the following:

  • minimising stress and change in your cat’s lifestyle, surroundings and routines
  • giving them their medication at the correct dose and at the right time every day
  • seeing a vet regularly for checkups and advice on medication
  • ensuring your cat has regular preventive care, such as vaccinations, worming and flea treatments
  • contacting a vet as soon as possible if you notice any changes in your cat’s habits or behaviour

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