Cushings Disease in Cats

Cushings disease in cats is considered an uncommon endrocrine condition. It is characterized by hyperadrenocorticism, or the overproduction of adrenal hormone (corticosteroids).

Feline Cushings disease (Hyperadrenocorticism) is most commonly caused by a tumor of the pituitary gland, or sometimes a tumor of the adrenal glands.

It can also be caused by overuse of steroid treatments, such as Prednisone. If the syndrome is induced by prolonged or excessive steroid usage it is known as iatrogenic Cushings.

The disease (when not caused by steroid usage) affects mostly middle aged to older cats, with females more often being the target. This disease has many symptoms that could be caused by other diseases, and diabetes (and its accompanying symptoms) is often present along with it.

As such, it can be complicated to understand, and difficult to diagnose. To make things more complicated, many of the clinical signs in cats are not obvious.

One of the most obvious signs in felines, however, is thinning of the skin. The skin may be so thin as to appear translucent and feel thin to the touch. One of the more common ways that this illness is discovered in cats is when there is difficulty in regulating insulin in a cat with diabetes.

Symptoms and signs include the following...

  • concurrent diabetes in 81% of cases
  • polydipsia (excessive thirst) and polyuria (excessive urination)
  • pendulous abdomen
  • polyphagia (excessive hunger)
  • alopecia (hair loss) and poor coat
  • muscle wasting and weight gain in over 50% of cases
  • hepatomegaly (enlarged liver)
  • fragile skin syndrome in almost 50% of cases (skin may tear off easily)
  • infections
  • depression
  • weight loss in almost 20% of cases
  • easy bruising

In addition to thin skin and bruising, cushings disease can create skin conditions that include:

  • comedones (blackheads)
  • baldness on the trunk and abdomen
  • poor coat condition
  • abscesses
  • hyperpigmentation

Additional secondary infections produced by Cushings disease in cats may include facial abscesses, bacterial and fungal cystitis, pyothorax, bronchitis, rhinitis, pancreatitis, and demodicosis.


When the disease is caused by overuse of steroids, then the condition should resolve after the drug therapy is terminated or reduced.

If Cushings is caused by adrenal or pituitary tumors, then treatment options get quite complicated. A number of drug treatments exist, but cats do not respond that well to certain treatment options, and surgery may be required.

This site has some extensive information on this disease as well as treatment options for both cats and dogs.

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