Acromegaly in Cats

Acromegaly is a rare but very dangerous condition that affects cats of all ages, breeds and genders. It is more common in certain breeds than others, but this disease is generally quite uncommon. The disease is typically caused by an abnormal growth or tumor that affects the pituitary gland. Because acromegaly is almost always fatal if left untreated, and because complete removal of the abnormal growth which causes the condition is often dangerous or difficult to do, this condition must be monitored closely and treated with medication as quickly as possible. Read on for a brief overview of this unusual condition in cats and how it is diagnosed and treated.

Acromegaly Overview

Acromegaly is a condition that comes about when something affects your cat's pituitary gland and causes it to secrete more growth hormones than are necessary. This is most often caused by an abnormal growth or tumor in the pituitary gland, and the hormones may vary somewhat. The condition is oftentimes difficult to diagnose, as the symptoms are similar to many other growth diseases and even other conditions like hyperadrenocorticism (also known as Cushing's Disease).

Symptoms of Acromegaly in Cats

The primary symptoms of this condition are physical. Because the overactive pituitary gland encourages more growth than is necessary in your cat, you'll notice that certain parts of his body continue to grow when they do not otherwise need to. It's not uncommon, therefore, to see the following symptoms associated with acromegaly:

  • Oversized head
  • Oversized paws
  • Protruding jaw

Because the disease oftentimes strikes cats as they're still growing, and because most smaller cats and kittens have paws that are generally larger in proportion to their body size than cats that are fully developed, it can therefore be difficult to determine whether your pet has this condition based on a physical examination alone.

Cats with acromegaly oftentimes also present symptoms that are similar to those of diabetes. You may notice that your cat seems to be insulin resistant and that his blood sugar level varies significantly depending upon the time of day and whether he's had food or not. This is a byproduct of the overactive pituitary gland, but can easily be mistaken for diabetes.

Diagnosing and Treating Cats with Acromegaly

Acromegaly will typically be treated with both a physical examination of your pet's symptoms and a series of blood tests to determine the levels of certain pituitary hormones in his blood.

Treating this condition will require that you provide your pet with drugs that help to slow the production of growth hormones. Your vet will determine the exact hormones that are being overproduced and will help to develop a regimen of drugs to combat these hormones. These drug regimens oftentimes include octreotide, also known as Sandostatin, which is one of the more effective anti-growth drugs that is available for this treatment.

Ask your vet for any additional information about acromegaly or if your cat is at particular risk for developing this condition.