Cushing's Disease in Cats

PetMD Editorial
Jul 1, 2008
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Hyperadrenocorticism in Cats

Cushing’s syndrome (hyperadrenocorticism) occurs when the adrenal gland produces too much cortisol. While cortisol is an essential hormone, elevated levels lead to illness. There are several possible causes to this disease, including a tumor in the pituitary gland or the outer layer of the adrenal gland. Although the disease is rare in cats, it is more likely to affect middle-aged or older cats and females more than males. Breed, however, does not seem to be a determining factor. In addition, diabetes almost always accompanies the ailment.


  • Excessive urination (polyuria)
  • Excessive thirst (polydipsia)
  • Excessive eating (polyphagia)
  • Weight loss or gain
  • Enlarged liver (hepatomegaly)
  • Fragile skin
  • Symmetrical hair loss
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Enlargement of the abdomen
  • Curled ear tips
  • Unkempt appearance
  • Weakness (lethargy)
  • Changes in sexual behavior


  • Tumor in the pituitary gland
  • Tumor in an adrenal gland
  • Age of the cat


The tests listed below may be used to determine the underlying cause of your pet's disease:

  • Complete blood count (CBC)
  • Chemistry analysis
  • Urinalysis
  • Blood pressure check
  • X-rays of chest and abdomen
  • Ultrasound (abdominal)
  • Hormone tests
  • Cortisol level tests
  • MRI of the abdomen

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