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Find information on animal health topics, written for the veterinary professional.

Amyloidosis in Cats

By Otto M. Radostits, CM, DVM, MSc, DACVIM (Deceased), Professor Emeritus, Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences, Western College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Saskatchewan ; Max J. Appel, DMV, PhD, Professor Emeritus ; David A. Ashford, DVM, MPH, DSc, Assistant Area Director, International Services, APHIS, USDA ; Stephen C. Barr, BVSc, MVS, PhD, DACVIM, Professor of Medicine, Department of Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, Cornell University ; J. P. Dubey, MVSc, PhD, Microbiologist, Animal Parasitic Diseases Laboratory, Beltsville Agricultural Research Center, USDA ; Paul Ettestad, DVM, MS, State Public Health Veterinarian, Epidemiology and Response Division, New Mexico Department of Health ; Craig E. Greene, DVM, MS, Professor, Department of Small Animal Medicine, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Georgia ; Delores E. Hill, PhD, Parasitologist, U.S. Department of Agriculture ; Johnny D. Hoskins, DVM, PhD, Small Animal Consultant ; Eugene D. Janzen, DVM, MVS, Professor, Production Animal Health, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Calgary ; Jodie Low Choy, BVSc, BVMS, IVAS Cert, Menzies School of Health Research; University Avenue Veterinary Hospital, Northern Territory, Australia ; Dennis W. Macy, MS, DACVIM, Professor of Medicine and Oncology, College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences,Colorado State University ; Dudley L. McCaw, DVM, DACVIM (Small Animal, Oncology), Professor, Department of Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, Kansas State University ; Barton W. Rohrbach, VMD, MPH, DACVPM, Associate Professor, Department of Comparative Medicine, Veterinary Teaching Hospital, University of Tennessee ; J. Glenn Songer, PhD, Professor, Department of Veterinary Science and Microbiology, University of Arizona ; Richard A. Squires, BVSc (Hons), PhD, DVR, DACVIM, DECVIM-CA, GCertEd, MRCVS, Head of Veterinary Clinical Sciences, School of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences, James Cook University ; Bert E. Stromberg, PhD, Professor, Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Minnesota ; Joseph Taboada, DVM, DACVIM, Professor and Associate Dean, Office of Student and Academic Affairs, School of Veterinary Medicine, Louisiana State University ; Charles O. Thoen, DVM, PhD, Professor, Veterinary Microbiology and Preventive Medicine, College of Veterinary Medicine, Iowa State University ; John F. Timoney, MVB, PhD, Dsc, MRCVS, Keeneland Chair of Infectious Diseases, Gluck Equine Research Center, Department of Veterinary Science, University of Kentucky ; Ian Tizard, BVMS, PhD, DACVM, University Distinguished Professor of Immunology; Director, Richard M. Schubot Exotic Bird Health Center, Department of Veterinary Pathobiology, College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University

Also see professional content regarding amyloidosis.

Amyloidosis is a condition that occurs when amyloid, a substance composed of abnormally folded protein, is deposited in various organs of the body. Some types of amyloidosis are hereditary in cats. Abyssinian cats are known to be at risk for hereditary amyloidosis. Other types occur as a result of infections, various cancers, or other inflammatory or immune-related conditions. However, the cause is often unknown.

Amyloid can be deposited throughout the body, or in just one specific area. The misfolded protein causes damage by displacing normal cells. The disease can become fatal if amyloid is deposited into the tissue of critical organs, such as the kidneys, liver, or heart. All domestic mammals may develop amyloidosis. Senile systemic amyloidosis is the form of amyloidosis commonly seen in older animals. Aged animals commonly have minor deposits of amyloid without signs.

There are several types of amyloid, and the classification of amyloidosis is based on which amyloid protein is involved. Deposits of AA amyloid can result from chronic inflammatory diseases, chronic bacterial infections, and cancer. The amyloid is usually deposited in organs such as the spleen or kidneys. The animal may not show any signs of illness. If AA amyloid is deposited in the kidneys, it can lead to a buildup of protein and result in kidney failure. However, kidney amyloidosis is uncommon in cats, except for Abyssinian cats, in which it is inherited. AL amyloid is another common form of amyloid protein. AL amyloid tends to be deposited in nerve tissue and joints.

Because of its wide distribution and stealthy onset, amyloidosis is difficult to diagnose. However, your veterinarian might suspect amyloidosis if your cat has a chronic infection or inflammation and develops kidney or liver failure. No specific treatment can prevent the development of amyloidosis or promote the reabsorption of the protein deposits.