Diabetes in Pets

Acromegaly (also known as hypersomatotropism) is a hormonal condition resulting from over-secretion of growth hormone, known as Somatotropin[1] from the pituitary gland. This hormone is responsible for growth from birth to adulthood. At adulthood, secretions of the growth hormone slow dramatically and growth normally stops. In acromegaly, the bones continue to grow. Because the bone plates will still close upon entering adulthood, continuing growth is not in normal proportions.

The effect of excess growth hormone is similar to the effect of steroids in the respect that it causes insulin resistance[2]. Animals with acromegaly often are diabetic. Since acromegaly[3] is an endocrine disease, its sufferers can also be prone to neuropathy.

See Acromegaly cases for current and recent case studies of cats and dogs with acromegaly.

In cats[]

Cats and people usually have a pituitary tumor which is the cause of acromegaly. Over 90% of feline sufferers are male; there's no sexual predisposition in humans[4].

The clinical features of feline acromegaly include large head and paws, forward-jutting lower jaw, weight gain, and enlarged abdomen and organs, such as the heart, liver, and kidneys.

Acromegaly was thought to be a rare condition, but a recent UK study of diabetic cats with poor to adequate glycemic control showed that nearly a third of them showed signs of acromegaly. Testing confirmed acromegaly in over 90% of those. So as many as 1 in 3 hard-to-control diabetic cats may have acromegaly![5]

In dogs[]

In dogs, the condition often develops due to excess progestrone secretion (as happens with ovarian cysts). The usual canine sufferers of acromegaly are unspayed females. Spaying usually may cure the condition, depending on whether the pancreas is still able to secrete sufficient insulin. (Any type of diabetes may if unregulated eventually shut down the pancreas; see amyloidosis.) Using medication containing progesterones can also result in an excess of growth hormone[6][7].


Diagnosis can be difficult, but the condition can be tested for using the IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor-1)[8][9][10] or somatotropin test. The present best treatment for cats with pituitary tumors is radiation.

There is also a chance that acromegaly is being caused by tumors on other organs, not the pituitary. This unusual case is hard to detect since the pituitary will often be enlarged from the acromegaly, appearing on a brain scan like a tumor.[11] Of course in this case, radiation therapy to the brain will be ineffective.


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Further Reading[]