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Growth hormone is a substance produced by the body in order to help stimulate the production of new tissue. In younger cats, the hormone will be present in much higher levels as the animals are growing to their optimum adult size. Once they reach adulthood, the levels of growth hormone within their body will substantially decrease but will maintain a constant background level in order to help with functions such as recovery from injury and building extra muscle. However, if growth hormone levels are too low, this can have a range of effects depending on the age of the cat. In order to correct this problem, a vet may give the animals injections of supplementary growth hormone until the underlying issue is resolved.
Prior to performing the injections, the vet will run a number of tests on the cat's body to make sure that there are no other conditions present that could be exacerbated by the hormones (such as some form of infection). The next step is to clean a patch of skin on the cat in preparation for penetration by the hypodermic needle. Normally, the site selected for the injection will be a clump of loose skin that lies between the animal's shoulder blades. This is because there are several large blood vessels in the area, yet there is little risk of the needle over-penetrating into the cat's chest cavity. The vet may next decide to numb the site with an icepack before inserting the needle and injecting the contents into the cat. At this point, they will usually swab the area in order to remove any excess blood and prevent the formation of an unnecessarily large scab that the cat may later scratch. The procedure will usually only last a few minutes from start to finish, with the majority of the time being dedicated to the preparation of the hormones and syringe.
The cat may need additional shots of growth hormone over the coming weeks, as in order to achieve an effect, hormone therapy must be continued for a long period of time (or at least until the cat's body can properly regulate the production of growth hormone again). In some cases (such as when the pituitary gland has been irreparably damaged by cancer), the cat will require growth hormone therapy for the rest of its life.
The cat should start to exhibit noticeable physical changes within a couple of weeks, gaining a visibly improved amount of strength and muscle tone. Virtually no aftercare pertaining to the injections will be required from the animal's owners, though treatment for the underlying condition may necessitate closely monitoring the cat. Damage to the pituitary gland can cause a range of other problems with regards to the regulation of hormones in the body and can wreak havoc on the adrenal system. Owing to this likelihood of more conditions appearing, the vet will most likely want to book a series of follow-up appointments to conduct testing for these problems.
The majority of the financial cost of growth hormone injections stems not from the expertise needed to deliver the treatment, but the effort needed to produce the feline growth hormone itself. Because of the complexity of this process, owners can expect the treatment to cost upwards of several hundred dollars per month depending on the frequency that injections are needed and the availability of the treatment in a given region.
The process of injecting supplementary growth hormones into a cat is only conducted when absolutely necessary and is minimally invasive, meaning that there are few chances of complications arising. The only real worry that an owner may have is a fear of administering too much growth hormone to the cat. If this happens on a long-term basis, it can result in a condition known as 'acromegaly', whereby some of the cat's body parts will continue to grow beyond their normal limits. In most cases, this will result in abnormally large facial features and paws and may even impair the body's ability to produce insulin (mimicking the effects of diabetes). However, if the vet uses proper methodology when calculating the right dosage and conducts frequent follow-up testing, there is little risk of this occurring.
Cancers of the pituitary gland and adrenal system in general are usually hereditary, being passed down through generations without being detected until significantly developed. For this reason, it will be nigh on impossible to predict or stop the appearance of a tumor within the gland. Once it has been detected however, the vet may well recommend sterilizing the cat so as to prevent the disease from spreading further through the feline population. Malnutrition meanwhile, is easily avoidable. By feeding a kitten a healthy protein-rich diet, an owner can ensure that they will not suffer from stunted growth or improper development.
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Short hair tabby
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Our cat Hoosier is about 12 yrs old. He has been losing weight and is quite gaunt, but seems to be well. Would you recommend growth hormone to stimulate some muscle growth and weight gain?
July 18, 2018
Short answer no; it is more important to understand why there is a loss of weight and loss of muscle mass, you should have the thyroid levels checked to ensure that the dosage of methimazole is correct since an inadequate dose may result in a loss of weight and loss of muscle mass (do not change the dosage yourself - see your Veterinarian). Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM
July 19, 2018
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