Amyloidosis is a serious condition caused by deposits of an abnormal protein, called amyloid, in tissues and organs throughout the body. It can occur in many species, including humans, but is clearly recognized in our cats. The deposition of amyloid disrupts the cat’s organ function, which leads to organ failure and/or death. Amyloid can be deposited in any organ of the cat, although the liver and kidney are most commonly affected. Amyloid may also become deposited in joints and nerve tissue, causing cats to experience neurological damage.
Although Amyloidosis may have multiple causes, the disease in cats is believed to be caused (at least in part) by an inherited genetic abnormality, although the precise mode of inheritance is as yet unknown. This has been well described in Abyssinian cats, but other breeds of cat such as Siamese, Oriental and Balinese are similarly affected.
Affected cats typically develop symptoms of Amyloidosis between one to five years of age. The disease may progress rapidly or progression may be over several years.
Formal diagnosis is usually made by post mortem (or sometimes in life by liver or kidney biopsy) but there is as yet no reliable non-invasive or genetic test currently available to diagnose Amyloidosis. This can make informed decisions regarding planned matings very difficult as affected cats in breeding programmes may not develop any evidence of Amyloidosis themselves until after they have transmitted their genes to their offspring, sometimes even two or more generations. There is currently no known treatment for Amyloidosis other than supportive care.
Whilst there is no cure for Amyloidosis, research is currently being carried out in Siamese, Oriental and Balinese cats by a team in Milan and America who are seeking to identify the faulty gene(s) that cause this disease.
Talk given about amyloidosis at OCA/SCA show on June 23 2018