Cushing's disease is a health condition in dogs that can cause more serious complications, especially if not treated promptly. Our Kingman vets discuss the symptoms of Cushing's disease in dogs, the symptoms that your pup may experience and what the expected outcome might be.
Cushing's disease (hyperadrenocorticism) is a serious health condition in which the adrenal glands overproduce cortisol (cortisone) in the body. If your dog experiences a build-up of excessive cortisol then they will be at an increased risk of several serious conditions and illnesses, from kidney damage to diabetes, and can be life-threatening.
Cushing’s disease is commonly caused by a benign or malignant tumor in the pituitary gland, a pea-sized gland located at the base of the brain. In some cases, the tumor could be located in the adrenal glands, located just above the kidneys.
In the case of Iatrogenic Cushing's syndrome the cause is excessive cortisol due to the prolonged use of steroids.
The Symptoms of Cushing's Disease in Dogs
The most common symptoms of Cushing’s disease seen in dogs include:
- Increased appetite
- Excessive thirst or drinking
- Thinning of the skin
- Hair loss
- Frequent urination
- Muscle weakness
- Enlarged abdomen, potbellied appearance
While your dog will most likely experience at least one of these symptoms, the chance that they will experience of these when suffering from Cushing's disease is very low.
It is essential to contact your vet immediately if your dog is displaying any of the symptoms above. Dogs with Cushing’s disease have an increased risk of diabetes, kidney damage, blood clots, and high blood pressure.
Diagnosing Cushing's Disease in Dogs
Your vet will do a physical exam and run a few tests to determine what may be causing your pet's symptoms and to rule out other health problems. The tests can include, but are not limited to, urinalysis, urine culture, complete blood panel, and/or full chemistry panel.
Your vet may run adrenal function tests, testing adrenal low dose and high dose dexamethasone suppression tests. However, adrenal function tests can result in false positives when another disease with similar clinical signs is present.
An ultrasound may help to rule out other conditions that could be causing your dog’s symptoms. Other diseases that may cause similar symptoms include tumors in the spleen or liver, bladder stones, gallbladder disease, gastrointestinal disease, and chronic inflammatory liver disease.
The most effective diagnostic testing for Cushing’s disease is magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) which allows your vet to assess your dog’s adrenal glands. However, this testing method can be expensive.
At Cerbat Cliffs Animal Hospital in Kingman, our vets are trained to diagnose and treat a wide range of internal diseases and conditions. We have access to diagnostic imaging tools and treatment methods to identify and manage these issues.
Common Methods of Treatment For Cushing's Disease in Dogs
Cushing's disease in dogs is typically treated with medications that help decrease the amount of cortisone that the adrenal glands produce. While the only cure for Cushing's disease in dogs is surgery, it is usually opted against as it can be complex and have complications. The most common form of treatment for Cushing's disease in dogs is management using medication.
The type of treatment that will be recommended for your dog will depend on the type of Cushing's disease that your dog is experiencing.
Pituitary tumor. Treatment of pituitary-dependent Cushing’s disease is the most complicated. Two drugs, trilostane and mitotane are commonly used.
Adrenal tumor. Treatment of an adrenal-dependent Cushing’s disease usually requires major abdominal surgery. If the entire tumor is able to be removed and the tumor is not malignant, there is a good chance that your dog will regain normal health.
Iatrogenic Cushing’s disease. Treatment requires gradual discontinuation of the steroid, usually resulting in a recurrence of the disease that was being treated by the steroid.
After starting the medication treatments your dog will need to see the vet regularly for ACTH stimulation tests, until the excessive production of cortisone is controlled.
Over the lifetime of your pet, routine monitoring of blood tests and medication adjustments need to be made.
Complications of Cushing's Disease in Dogs
The cause of your dog's Cushing's disease as well as the conditions your pup develops that are linked to the disease are going to impact your pet's prognosis. Early diagnosis and treatment are essential for limiting the severity of the disease.
The symptoms of Cushing’s disease can be minimized with diligent observation and long-term management.
Most dogs can be successfully treated with few medication side effects. However, the wrong dose can cause mild or severe side effects. Therefore, your pet must be carefully monitored and follow-up blood tests are essential.
Dogs who do not receive adequate monitoring and follow-up often experience relapses and severe illness or death, as a result of complications.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.