Goals of Treating Feline Cushing’s Disease
Cushing’s disease, also known as hyperadrenocorticism, is a condition that involves excessive production and secretion of cortisol by the adrenal glands. It is a rare disease in cats and, when it occurs, it usually affects cats that are over 7 years of age. Cushing’s disease can be caused by the oral or intravenous administration of steroid medications. This is called “iatrogenic” hyperadrenocorticism. Cushing’s in cats can also be caused by tumors of the pituitary or adrenal glands. The goals of treating cats with Cushing’s disease are to relieve the animal’s discomfort and restore the normal balance of adrenal hormones in its blood stream.
Treatment Options for Cats with Cushing's Disease
The treatment options for cats with Cushing’s disease are fairly limited. In many cases, the treatment protocols are quite risky. Unfortunately, once a cat develops clinical signs of Cushing’s, the disease usually has already progressed to an advanced stage. Feline Cushing’s disease is extremely debilitating. Cats should be treated medically before they have surgery, to prevent complications from fragile skin, infections and bruising. Since this condition can be caused by the administration of steroid drugs, the most common initial treatment is to slowly wean the cat off of those medications. An abrupt end to steroid medications can cause a number of medical disorders; these drugs must be reduced slowly under the supervision of the cat’s veterinarian.
A number of drugs are available to treat Cushing’s disease in cats, whether the disorder is caused by tumors of the pituitary gland or the adrenal glands. Some cats with Cushing’s respond positively to medical treatments, but the medications come with their own side effects. Often, surgery is necessary. If oral or injectable medications don’t successfully manage the cat’s symptoms of Cushing’s disease, surgical removal of the adrenal gland is the last available option. This surgery is risky. When a cat is diagnosed with Cushing’s disease, it is important for the owner to have an open and honest discussion with their veterinarian about the treatment options and possible outcomes. Sometimes, the owner may be referred to a veterinary specialist, as many general practitioners don’t have a lot of experience evaluating and managing Cushing’s disease in cats.
Prognosis for Cats with Cushing’s Disease
The prognosis for cats with Cushing’s disease is generally guarded to poor. While the affected adrenal glands can be surgically removed, the cat’s debilitated condition should be corrected before surgery takes place. Removing adrenal glands requires a very skilled surgeon, and the cat’s owner must be committed to managing the kitty’s adrenal steroid deficiency for the rest of its life, with oral medications.