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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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