Canine Cushing’s Disease

Canine Cushing’s disease, also known as hyperadrenocorticism, is a canine condition caused by an abnormally high level of cortisol. It’s most commonly seen in middle-aged or older dogs and is associated with excessive thirst and urination, increased appetite, hair loss, thinning skin and a pot-bellied appearance. Other signs can include panting, weakness, potty accidents, poor coat quality and skin infections.

Cushing’s disease is caused by a tumor in their pituitary gland or adrenal glands, which causes an overproduction of cortisol. Treatment options include medications to reduce cortisol levels, surgery to remove the tumor and radiation therapy. It’s important to diagnose Cushing’s disease early in order to treat it effectively.

Symptoms of Canine Cushing’s Disease

Symptoms of Cushing’s disease vary depending on the underlying cause, but some of the most common signs include:

  • Excessive thirst and urination
  • Increased appetite
  • Hair loss
  • Thinning skin
  • Pot-bellied appearance

Other symptoms can include:

  • Panting
  • Weakness
  • Potty accidents
  • Poor coat quality
  • Skin infections

In some cases, dogs can have increased energy levels or aggression.

Diagnosing Canine Cushing’s Disease

In order to diagnose Cushing’s disease, a vet will need to conduct a thorough physical exam and review your dog’s medical history. A complete blood chemistry panel might be done in order to measure hormone levels that are typically affected by Cushing’s disease. 

Urine tests might also be necessary in order to measure their cortisol levels. An ultrasound or CT scan might be used to look for tumors in their pituitary gland or adrenal glands.

Stages of Canine Cushing’s Disease

Cushing’s disease is typically split into three stages: pre-clinical, clinical and remission.

Stage 1

In the preclinical stage, dogs might not have any symptoms of Cushing’s disease but hormone levels are still abnormally high.

Stage 2

During the clinical stage, dogs will have one or more of the common symptoms of Cushing’s disease.

Stage 3

In the remission stage, dogs might not have any symptoms of the condition and their hormone levels should return to normal.

Treating Canine Cushing’s Disease

Treating Cushing’s disease depends on the underlying cause. Medications are often used to reduce cortisol levels, but surgery could also be necessary to remove an adrenal or pituitary tumor. In some cases, radiation therapy will be necessary if the tumor can’t be removed surgically. It’s important to closely monitor your dog’s condition as treatment progresses and consult with your veterinarian regularly.

Preventing Canine Cushing’s Disease

Unfortunately, there is no known way to prevent Cushing’s disease. It’s important to be aware of the warning signs and to get veterinary care at the first sign of any potential symptoms. Regular vet check-ups are also recommended in order to detect any potential problems early on.