Feline Cushing’s Syndrome

By Tess Thompson

Cushing’s syndrome or hyperadrenocorticism is not as common in cats as it is among dogs. The treatments for Cushing’s disease in dogs is far more developed than those for cats. But that can hardly be reason for getting complacent since a fair number of cases of feline hyperadrenocorticism that have been reported.

The best way to tackle the syndrome is to understand the causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment. This helps in identifying the problem, confirming the presence, and getting it treated effectively.


Cushing’s disease is a glandular disorder caused by excessive production of an adrenal-cortex hormone called cortisol.

A complex system of reciprocal interactions between the pituitary gland and the adrenal glands controls the cortisol levels in a cat’s body. An abnormal development - like a tumor - can disturb the fine balance of the amount of cortisol produced. Sometimes, the condition can also be caused due to a high dosage of synthetic hormones that may have been used to treat other ailments.


  • Excessive thirst and appetite
  • Loose and hanging abdomen
  • Hair loss resulting in a poor coat
  • Ear tip curling
  • Delicate and thin skin which is easily torn
  • Muscle weakness and lethargy
  • Uncontrolled diabetes
  • Increased urination
  • Diluted urine


The physical symptoms that accompany the condition are the first indication of Cushing’s disease. A presence and continuation of diabetes often leads to suspicion of Cushing’s disease. If the diabetes proves be difficult to control, it is almost a confirmation of the problem.

Routine laboratory tests are often inconclusive. A confirmed diagnosis requires a number of tests to establish the prevalence of the disease.

Once confirmed, further imaging tests like X-Rays, ultrasound examination, and CT/MRI scans are conducted to assess whether the cause of the issue lies in the pituitary gland or the adrenal glands.


If the disease has been caused by overdose of synthetic hormones, the hormones need to be stopped. A gradual reduction in the dosage is recommended since an immediate termination can cause withdrawal symptoms.

Tumors in the adrenal and pituitary glands are quite difficult to treat. Adrenal tumors can be removed by surgery. Tumors in the pituitary glands are almost impossible to remove.

Hyperadrenocorticism in a dog is relatively more prevalent which is probably why very few drugs exist to treat Cushing’s disease in cats. Furthermore, the medications available for cats currently are not effective enough to cure the condition completely.

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