Cushing’s Disease, or hypercortisolism, in dogs is the result of a non-cancerous pituitary tumor which causes excessive production of cortisol (a stress hormone).
The Symptoms of Cushing’s Syndrome
The condition usually effects middle-aged or older dogs; however, it has been known to occur in young adults as well. There are certain symptoms which might indicate the onset of the disease, and include the following:
- Increase in water consumption without any other explanation for doing so
- Increased appetite without increase in activity or as a result of other factors such as pregnancy
- Increase in urination and even indoor lapses of housebroken pets
- Loss of fur, and a sluggishness in hair growth (in breeds with medium or long hair)
- Sluggishness and lack of energy
- Excessive panting
- Frequent skin infections & apparent thinning of the skin
There are no definitive tests for the disease, so veterinarians use a variety of indicators, as well as the dog’s health history to make a diagnosis with. The doctor will utilize blood and urine tests to check for certain indicators, such as high cholesterol, or urinary tract infection. If there is a strong suspicion that a dog may have Cushing’s Disease, these test and observations will be followed by an abdominal ultrasound to determine whether there is a tumor on the adrenal gland.
Types of Cushing’s Disease
There are two types of the Cushing’s Disease, the pituitary dependent variety, and the adrenal dependent.
Pituitary Dependent: The more common type of the disease, occurs when the above-mentioned disease appears on the pituitary gland.
Adrenal Dependent: This type of Cushing’s occurs in 15-20% of dogs diagnosed with the disease, and occurs when the tumor is on the adrenal gland.
If the diagnosis is for the adrenal dependent Cushing’s Disease, then there is the possibility of having the tumor removed by surgical means, which will cure the syndrome. This option only works if the tumor has not metastasized.
On the other hand, if the disease is of the pituitary dependent type, then there is no surgical solution, and the symptoms will have to be controlled through the use of medication.
If your dog is diagnosed with Cushing’s Disease, the most important thing to do is follow your veterinarian’s advice closely, and keep and even closer eye on symptoms, and general health.