While Addison's disease is rare in cats, when it does affect them, it can be life threatening. The most difficult thing about Addison's disease is properly diagnosing it because its symptoms can indicate a variety of other illnesses. Once diagnosed, though, you can manage the disease with medication.
What is it?
Addison's disease is a condition that's caused by a deficiency of certain hormones produced by your kitty's adrenal glands. These glands are located near her kidneys and produce hormones called glucocorticoids and mineralocorticoids. Glucocorticoids, such as cortisol, play a vital role in the metabolization of your furry feline's salt, sugar and proteins. Mineralocorticoids, like aldosterone, regulate your kitty's electrolytes, including her sodium and potassium levels. Without sufficient levels of these hormones, your kitty's body can't function properly, especially when she's under stress, according to the Mar Vista Animal Medical Center. For this reason, you may notice many of the symptoms related to Addison's disease during or after a stressful situation.
What to Look For?
A kitty with Addison's disease usually develops symptoms of the illness over a few days. These symptoms include weight-loss, diarrhea, weakness, lethargy, tummy pain, dehydration, lack of appetite and a dry skin and coat, according to PetWave. Her symptoms will usually worsen over time or alternate between mild and severe. While dogs may vomit or drink lots of water, these symptoms aren't common in cats. If her case is very severe, your kitty may appear to go into shock, according to the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine. The symptoms that mimic shock include low body temperature, weak heartbeat or collapse.
The symptoms of Addison's disease tend to be very broad and require a proper diagnosis with your vet. The doctor will give your kitty a thorough examination, perform blood and urine tests and perhaps even an electrocardiogram. Your vet will look for signs that point to Addison's disease, namely a high potassium level and low sodium, sugar and chloride levels in the blood, along with signs of dehydration. There may also be signs of high BUN and creatinine levels in the blood as well, according to the Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine. The only definitive test for Addison's disease is known as the adrenocorticotropic hormone test or ACTH test, which evaluates the function of the adrenal glands.
Tell your vet if your kitty is taking any medications that he isn't aware of. Sometimes medications such as prednisone, if administered over a long period of time and discontinued very abruptly, could induce Addison's disease. This information is vital for your vet to more quickly diagnose this condition. If your furry friend is diagnosed with Addison's disease, it can be controlled through regular injections of the hormones her body isn't producing, usually once a month. Keep your kitty's stress to a minimum so her condition doesn't get more severe. Use calming aids like synthetic pheromone sprays to help naturally ease your feline friend's stress without interfering with her medication. The long-term prognosis for kitties with Addison's disease is very good if it is caught early and properly treated.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.
Based in Las Vegas, Susan Paretts has been writing since 1998. She writes about many subjects including pets, finances, crafts, food, home improvement, shopping and going green. Her articles, short stories and reviews have appeared on City National Bank's website and on The Noseprint. Paretts holds a Master of Professional Writing from the University of Southern California.