Hepatic Amyloidosis in Siamese & Oriental Cats

Hepatic Amyloidosis affects Siamese and Oriental cats with devastating consequences. Many cats are mis-diagnosed as there are very few references to this particular form; most references to Amyloidosis are concerned with the Renal version in connection with the Abyssinian cat. This is not a "new" disease but has been documented at least coloquially by breeders, for around 30 years. It may well explain why some siamese or oriental cats simply "drop dead" at around 2-3 years old.
I am not a vet or a scientist but I do have many years experience in breeding, and sadly in nursing amyloid sufferers. The descriptions I offer here are my own based upon my own experiences.
How serious is this???
Well, it kills and it is not curable so it's pretty serious! My own feeling is that it is fairly widespread and if my cats have had it then others have too - afterall, we mainly share the same base bloodlines of the country we live in. 
Yes, it is frightening and it will make you re-evaluate your breeding programs as I have done but we cannot live in denial of this and now we have a real chance to make something happen. No one is to blame - and this is not what this project is about. It IS about trying to help the breed that we know and love so deeply. 
What does it look like???
Affected cats are frequently "a bit under the weather" rather than very poorly in the first instance. Pale gums and ears are a common sign, as is a slight jaundice. Often blood work will reveal a high white cell count and low red cell count - often at first thought to be signs of a cancer. Cats can also vomit a frothy fluid which shows signs of blood. The cat may "recover" thanks to the regenerative nature of the liver and there may be periods of peaks and troughs in the cats' short life. For those of us who have had to nurse such cats, IV Fluid therapy helps tremendously as this assists the liver in its partial recovery. I try never to expose the cat to stress (mental or physical) and never vaccinate a cat who I suspect to be a sufferer. In my own experience, the problem usually follows a short period of illness (not necessarily serious) or some other challenge to the immune system.
Cats usually succumb to haemorrhage from the liver, often literally "dropping dead" in front of their owners. This is extremely distressing and often leads to the owner stricken with grief not requesting a post mortem. If post mortem is performed, then the abdominal cavity is blood filled and on inspection the liver will have often almost completely disintegrated under the sheer number of amyloid cysts. I have actually heard of vets who though in the first instance that the cat had been involved in a traffic accident.
What can I do???
A research group has now been set up which includes  Professor Leslie Lyons (University of Missouri), Professor Maria Longeri (University of Milan), Dr. Urs Giger (University of Pennsylvania) and Dr. Anne Thomas (Antagene, France).

The Project is collecting samples of cats with a report (best with a necropsy, but also isolated tissue analysis) of Amyloidosis and Congo Red Stain. The Congo Red Stain test is really important to request during a necropsy  as it is the definitive test.

They are also collecting samples of healthy cats of the same breed older than 7-8 years old or from cats of the same breed who have died with a necropsy negative for amyloidosis, or from healthy litter mates or half siblings, parents, grand-parents and/or offspring of cats or kittens who were positively identified as having had Amyloidosis. 

The best samples are EDTA blood or 2-4 buccal swabs of the upper and lower gums of each cheek and FFPE which is the formaline-parafin specimens used by the Diagnostic Lab to do the histological analysis. In the latter case, if the lab needs to keep the specimen, it might be requested to divide it and provide half of it. 

The samples should arrive with a copy of the pedigree, or a link to an online pedigree database if no hard copy is available, a copy of the necropsy/histopathology and a few lines to identify that it is for the Amyloidosis Project and a brief description of the disease. It is important to include the date of death as well as the date of birth so that the age at death is identified. 

If sending from USA-Canada send the samples  to:  

Prof. Leslie A. Lyons, PhD, Professor  Emeritus - University of California - Davis 
Gilbreath-McLorn Endowed Professor of Comparative Medicine Department of Veterinary Medicine
Surgery College of Veterinary Medicine
E109 Vet Med Building
1600  E. Rollins St. 
University of Missouri
Columbia Columbia, MO  65211 
Tel: 01 573 882 9777 Lab: 01 573 884 2287

If sending from Europe to: 

Prof. Maria Longeri, DVM, PhD 
Universite degli Studi di Milano 
Dipartimento di Scienze Veterinarie e Sanità Pubblica
Via Celoria,
10 -  20133 Milano (Italy)
Tel.: +39 02 503 180 48 - Fax: +39 02 503 180 30
Skype: maria.longeri  

If from other places, either one of the  two labs is ok

If you have had affected cats that are no longer with you and you have their offspring/siblings/ancestors then please submit that DNA as well with a pedigree which identifies the affected cat.
Collecting DNA samples is very simple and to see a video of how to do this please go to: http://www.vetmed.ucdavis.edu/PHR/LyonsDen/Protocolsframe.html
(p.s. although this mentions cytology brushes, you can also use of cotton buds (any brand is OK).
All samples are sent in absolute confidence; the only people who will know whose samples they are are the lab staff and they are professionally bound to confidentiality. However, the cats must be named individually (pedigree names and numbers) in order to possibly establish (or disprove) an hereditary link. Under no circumstances will this information, nor test results, be disclosed to anyone other than the cat's owner. The site author has no access to this information.

If you would like any further information on this project, please contact me at sarah@landican.co.uk All information which you supply to me personally I will guarantee to keep confidential.
There is also a support and information group at http://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/feline_amyloidosis 
Please also consider assisting in the
Cat Phenotype and Health Information Registry (Cat PHIR).

"The overall goal of Cat PHIR is to provide investigators with “links” to cats with traits and diseases of interest. Cat PHIR is a non-profit, voluntary, feline database project for mixed and fancy cat breeds. There are no costs associated with sample submission. Funding for Cat PHIR is through the The National Institute of Health – National Center for Research Resources (NIH-NCRR RR016094)"

http://www.vgl.ucdavis.edu/lyons/catphir.php is the page where you can read more about this research project and learn how you can assist in this valuable research.
 Other references to this disease can be found at:

Last update: 12 September 2013
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