March 2008 Issue

What Is Cushing's Disease?

An excess of an important hormone, cortisol, can have deadly consequences for your cat. Here's what to look for.

Your cat Pinky has enjoyed good health for most of the eight years she’s spent in your home. Lately, however, she’s been undergoing some worrisome changes. She’s eating and drinking much more than she used to; she’s recently begun to develop a potbelly; and she’s become uncharacteristically lethargic. While such changes could be attributable at least in part to her advancing age, they are also signs that Pinky could be afflicted with a disorder called hyperadrenocorticism, otherwise known as Cushing’s disease. According to Deb Zoran, DVM, PhD, an associate professor of medicine at Texas A&M University’s College of Veterinary Medicine and Biological Sciences, this condition is extremely rare in cats — far less frequently diagnosed than it is in dogs. Nevertheless, cat owners should be aware of Cushing’s disease, its causes, the clinical signs associated with it and the treatment options available.

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