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Feline Cushing syndrome: Rare cat disease


Felines Cushing syndrome is a rare cat disease that can lead to death without being noticed. It was discovered by the neurologist Harvey Williams Cushing, where the name of the disease comes from. The brave kitten is certainly healthy, the vet brings certainty - Shutterstock / Andrey Kuzmin

Cushing's syndrome is life-threatening - that's why every cat owner should have heard of it at least once. Because if this disease is discovered too late or not at all, your cat's life can be over from now on. And you don't want a cat owner or a cat like that.

What is Cushing's syndrome and how does it come about?

Feline Cushing syndrome, also called Cushing's disease, is a hormonal disorder in which there is permanently too much cortisol in the body. The disease typically occurs more in female cats than in male cats and especially in older animals. It often develops gradually over several years. There are different ways in which this can happen:

pituitary tumor: Cortisol is produced by the adrenal gland. The pituitary gland is responsible for regulating this production. It controls cortisol production by releasing the hormone ACTH (adrenocorticotropic hormone) into the bloodstream as a command for the adrenal gland. If the pituitary gland is disturbed by a tumor and releases too much ACTH, the cortisol is overproduced in the adrenal gland. This is the so-called pituitary Cushing syndrome, which is the case in 80 to 90 percent of sick cats.
Adrenal tumor: Furthermore, a tumor in the adrenal gland can lead to a disorder in the adrenal cortex: cortisol is produced excessively. Called adrenal cushing, it is much less common at 10 to 20 percent and has nothing to do with the pituitary gland as a control organ.
ACTH-releasing tumors: It happens extremely rarely, but there are other tumors that are not located on the pituitary gland or on the adrenal gland and can still cause a so-called ectopic Cushing syndrome. Bronchial carcinoma, for example, can shed ACTH and overproduce cortisol in the adrenal glands.
Cortisone treatment: Another Cushing syndrome in cats, but another cause, is the Iatrogenic Cushing: here the disease is not caused by disturbances in the body, but by the cortisone supply over a longer period of time, for example during therapy. Cushing's syndrome, triggered by artificial cortisone, is curable in most cases.

Which cat diseases are transferable to humans?

When cat diseases are communicable to humans, they are called zoonoses. This includes…

Feline Cushing syndrome: symptoms

Cushing's syndrome is extremely difficult to diagnose because most of the symptoms can also occur with other diseases. Clear signs can be seen in the eating and drinking behavior of a sick cat. There is excessive water intake, which is accompanied by frequent urination. This is particularly noticeable due to the sudden uncleanliness when your cat is increasingly unable to make it to the toilet. The constant urge to eat is also noticeable and over time a cat with Cushing syndrome increases in the trunk and belly, so that a proper hanging belly develops.

As the muscles decrease, Cushing should be noticed in a cat at some point because the big belly and the thinning limbs make the cat's body appear strange and the animal also loses strength. The diseased cat's skin becomes dry, cracked and often shows pigment changes such as dark spots. Wounds heal poorly and the susceptibility to skin infections increases. Hair loss is another side effect of Cushing's syndrome. One or the other cat owner will also notice that the cat's willingness to mate (rolliness) is delayed or does not even occur. As the disease progresses, the cat's immune system is weakened, making it more susceptible to all infections. It can also lead to complications because the permanent hormone overload is not good for the whole body, such as diabetes mellitus, osteoporosis or damage to the kidneys and liver.

Treating cushing: what are the options?

In some cases, surgery is an option, for example, tumors on the adrenal glands that are responsible for Cushing's syndrome can be removed. However, it is always decided based on the individual case and condition of the cat. The age and the current state of health of the animal play an important role. Because surgery is associated with many risks and tumors are rarely really easy to reach, sick cats are more likely to be treated with medication. These are supposed to regulate the release of cortisol hormone in the body.

The goal is to increase the life expectancy of the cat, but unfortunately this rarely works without strong side effects. It is also important to consider whether there are other diseases that could be favored by taking medication. If your cat is affected by Cushing's syndrome, radiation therapy may also be an option - specialized clinics offer such an alternative.