Addison’s Disease in Cats


The adrenal glands in a feline are positioned in front of the right and left kidneys. There are two important parts of each adrenal gland that include the cortex(outer layer)and the medulla (the center).

The adrenal cortex consists of three layers, and each contains a different collection of steroidal hormones.

They include the following:

  • The outermost layer regulates the body by releasing mineralocorticoids to balance potassium salts and sodium in the body.
  • The middle layer of the cortex helps in metabolizing nutrients and minimizing inflammation in the body by releasing glucocorticoids.
  • The inner layer of the cortex controls the menstrual cycle by releasing progesterone and estrogen.

The adrenal cortex is also responsible for the regulation of the body’s response or reaction to low glucose levels and stress by releasing norepinephrine. These hormones are responsible and essential for such operations to slow digestion and control blood sugar levels, blood pressure, and cardiac activity.

The damage caused as a result of illnesses or immune-mediated conditions to the cat’s adrenal glands can impair its function. Potassium levels build up in the blood without the release of essential life-supporting hormones from the adrenal glands.

This results in a low heartbeat rate accompanied by unfavorable health conditions. Addison’s disease in cats is a possible life-threatening disorder caused by an insufficient quantity of hormones developed by the two small glands sitting in front of the feline’s kidneys.

Addison’s disease in cats can also be referred to as hypoadrenocorticism. The corticosteroids in the adrenal glands are defective in this rare feline disease.

Cortisol is essential for life because it offers many vital functions, including the release of glycogen, the transformation of protein to energy, and immunosuppressive and anti-inflammatory properties.

A cat carrying Addison’s disease will look weakened, depressed, and have low body weight. The cat’s body will not be able to perform routine organ functions without medical care from the veterinary.

Sometimes, the condition may soon become an emergency.

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In some instances of Addison’s disease in cats, clinical symptoms of the disorder are usually noted within days of injury to the cat’s adrenal glands.

However, symptoms may often occur over a monthly span, which is not limited to:

  • Hyperkalemia (elevated blood potassium levels)
  • The loss of weight
  • Feebleness
  • Shaking
  • Tremors
  • Listlessness
  • Lethargy
  • Hypoglycemia (low sugar/glucose in the blood)
  • Irregular stomach conditions, including diarrhea and vomiting
  • Depression
  • Dehydration
  • Arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat)
  • Anorexia (loss of appetite)

Causes of Addison’s disease in cats

Addison’s disease in cats is caused by insufficient levels of hormones that the adrenal glands routinely generate. The explanation of why the adrenal glands stop hormones’ development is not understood, but this unusual feline disorder is related to some diseases.

The immune system, which usually protects the body from disease, continues to fight itself in certain instances and kills the adrenal glands’ tissues. The oddity of the immune system attacking the body is referred to as an immune-mediated disorder, and its cause is yet to be known.

The tissues of the adrenal glands are damaged by other invasive diseases, such as cancer or viruses, which cause Addison’s disease in cats.


Addison’s disease in cats mimics numerous symptoms of other cat health disorders. Nonetheless, the symptoms alone may not be sufficient to diagnose the illness. The vet doctor would probably recommend a blood test to detect any anomalies that could link the feline’s illness to the disease.

Evidence of a high level of potassium in the blood, as well as a deficient level of sodium, may be an indicator of Addison’s disease. Still, the only sure test for Addison’s disease in cats is the test that has the potential to assess the response of the adrenal glands to adrenocorticotropic hormone. This test is known as the stimulation test of ACTH.

The pituitary gland produces the adrenocorticotropic hormone, which is developed to energize the release of adrenal gland hormones. Thus, in cats, Addison’s disease will probably be ruled out if the doctor can see that the pituitary gland causes the adrenal glands’ reaction.


Since the majority of patients are admitted to the veterinary clinic for what is considered an adrenal crisis, the cat would definitely need to be hospitalized. Cats are usually and severely dehydrated, requiring stabilization therapy of intravenous fluids containing electrolytes.

When the cat is healthy, it will need to substitute the missing adrenal hormones with hormone replacement drugs. The drug may be given through the mouth or as an injection regularly.


A cat with Addison’s disease will need to be given hormone replacement therapy medications for the rest of its life, but they can be administered in the comfort of your home. As soon as the missing hormones are replaced with appropriate drugs, the cat will be returned to its usual self and live a long and happy life.

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