An orange tabby cat sick or asleep on a blanket.
An orange tabby cat sick or asleep on a blanket. Photography ©infinityyy | iStock / Getty Images Plus.

Acromegaly in Cats: Learn the Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

Does your cat have diabetes that seems difficult to control or is she drinking much more water and peeing more often than usual? Could it be feline acromegaly? Let’s take a closer look at acromegaly in cats here.
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Acromegaly in cats is a fairly uncommon but serious feline disease. Acromegaly can have a significant impact on your cat’s health, is most often associated with diabetic cats and is the result of the secretion of an excess growth hormone. But what is acromegaly in cats exactly? What are the symptoms of acromegaly in cats and how do you treat it?

First, what is acromegaly in cats?

A sick cat lying down with eyes half closed.
Is your cat at risk for acromegaly? Photography ©tverkhovinets | iStock / Getty Images Plus.

Acromegaly in cats is “a condition in cats caused by excessive growth hormone in the body, which is usually secondary to a pituitary tumor,” explains Dr. Renee Rucinsky, a board-certified feline practitioner and a diplomate of the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners, Feline Specialty. The disease most often results in insulin-resistant diabetes as well as enlargement of tissue in the liver, heart and the jaw.

What are the symptoms of acromegaly in cats?

Acromegaly in cats causes multiple complications. These often include unusual growths in the cat’s face, abdominal enlargement and cardiomyopathy, or heart disease. “Sometimes, owners will notice that the cat’s incisors ‘look weird,’ because the increased connective tissue causes the teeth to spread apart a bit,” explains Dr. Rucinsky, who also owns and runs the Mid Atlantic Cat Hospital, an AAHA-accredited, fear free-certified feline hospital in Queenstown, Maryland

Additionally, she says that the most common symptom of acromegaly in cats is a diabetes diagnosis, and that in a cat who has acromegaly, the diabetes is generally very difficult to regulate.

How is acromegaly in cats treated?

Dr. Rucinsky cautions that acromegaly in cats is very challenging to treat. “For cats, there isn’t a great option for medicating, and mostly we just try to control the secondary issues — the diabetes or heart disease, etc.,” she says. Cats who have acromegaly and diabetes generally require a very high dose of insulin.

For cat parents seeking more advanced treatment, Dr. Rucinsky explains that veterinarians will refer them and their cats to highly trained specialists. They will then be able to explore the removal of the pituitary tumor or, possibly, radiation therapy to treat the tumor.

What cats are most at risk for acromegaly disease?

Acromegaly can impact any cat. As previously discussed, cats with diabetes are at an increased risk of developing acromegaly. Dr. Rucinsky explains that while acromegaly in cats can affect any feline, it most commonly occurs in middle-aged, neutered and male cats.

Dr. Rucinsky says that if cat parents notice that their cats are drinking more water and urinating more than usual, they should schedule a vet exam. And if your cat has already been diagnosed with diabetes, but you are having a hard time regulating it, ask your veterinarian to explore acromegaly as a complicating factor.

For more information about diabetes and cats, check out the American Animal Hospital Association’s Diabetes Management Guidelines at AAHA.org/Diabetes. Dr. Rucinsky is part of the AAHA Diabetes Management Task Force who developed the report.

Sassafras Lowrey is an award-winning author whose novels have been honored by the Lambda Literary Foundation and the American Library Association. Sassafras is a Certified Trick Dog Instructor and assists with dog agility classes. She lives and writes in Brooklyn with her partner, a senior Chihuahua mix, a rescued Shepherd mix, a Newfoundland puppy, two bossy cats and a semi-feral kitten. Learn more at sassafraslowrey.com.

Thumbnail: Photography ©infinityyy | iStock / Getty Images Plus.

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4 thoughts on “Acromegaly in Cats: Learn the Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment”

  1. Hi. My big, male ragdoll cat has been diagnoses with diabetes, then acromegaly about 2 years ago. After the initial diagnosis, he was not doing well. He had major mobility problems in his hind legs and had trouble keeping his rear end off of the floor. He looked miserable. Once the insulin was regulated, within a couple months, and vitamin B was administered orally, he began walking normally again and jumping on the couch and beds and enjoying a great quality of life once again. It has been two years and he seems to be thriving. I read a lot of articles stating that life expectancy is from a few months to 4 years. Could my Sweetie be in remission? He is 38 lbs, very tall and handsome. And he seems to be very happy and content at the moment…

  2. I believe my diabetic male maine coon cat has this affliction. He has been very high dose diabetic for going on 2 years now (8u lantus twice a day and still numbers are rather high)
    My understanding is there is no definite test to diagnose this disease in cats and that you basically go by symptoms. Is this still correct info or is there now a test to confirm my vet may not know of???…Also I hear that the treatment protocol is bleak and very expensive if tried. Anyone have a cat with acromegaly and if so what has your experience been?

    1. Michaela Conlon

      Hi there Jeff,

      We are sorry to hear your cat is experiencing this. We suggest contacting your vet for further questions. We hope your cat feels better!

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