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Cushing’s Disease In Canines

When unexplainable lumps and bumps, increased appetite, bulging stomach, and loss of hair strike your canine, the cause of concern may lead to a diagnosis of Cushing’s disease. The condition that seems to develop in middle age to older dogs is characterized by malfunctioning pituitary or adrenal glands or the overproduction of corticosteroids. The disease is also triggered by tumors in the adrenal or pituitary glands. Overall, Cushing’s disease is a complex condition that brings about a wide-range of symptoms and isn’t easily detected by the average pet owner.

Signs and Symptoms

Unlike typical dog ailments, Cushing’s disease is quite tricky, as a pet owner is most often unaware of the onset of this condition. The common signs that alert an owner that something is wrong with a dog do not take place, such as visible pain, diarrhea, vomiting, seizures, or bleeding. Usually, a pet owner simply writes off the common symptoms of Cushing’s disease as the normal course of getting older.

For example, the muscle weakness connected to Cushing’s disease causes a dog to exercise less and become sluggish. These are typical signs of an aging dog; therefore owners usually dismiss these symptoms. A visit to a veterinarian often doesn’t come until the signs become too unbearable. For instance, a dog may act completely out of character, such as displaying an uncharacteristic lapse in house training. The typical pooch suffering the effects of Cushing’s disease showcases a saggy belly, which is caused by dwindling muscle strength. As the condition worsens, a dog may lose hair. Additionally, the skin starts to thin and becomes less resistant to infection.

When it comes to Cushing’s disease, there are certain dogs that fall under a high-risk category. Bull Terriers, Silky Terriers, Yorkshire Terriers, Dachshunds, Poodles (toy, miniature, and standard) and Boston Terriers are all considered a high-risk breed for the disease. When it comes to adrenal gland tumors, female dogs are more vulnerable. The disease is also common in dogs that are older than five years old.

Getting to the Bottom of Cushing’s Disease

Once a pet owner suspects Cushing’s disease, a veterinarian can diagnose the problem with a blood test. Later, they can pinpoint the cause of the condition (pituitary or adrenal gland issues). Nearly 85% of all Cushing’s disease cases are caused by tumors in the pituitary glands, which are treatable with drugs. There is no cure for this instance of the disease, while adrenal gland tumors are surgically removable.

Cushing’s Disease Treatment

The main drugs used to treat Cushing’s disease are called Lysodren, Ketoconazole, and Anipryl. Lysodren combats the outer layer of the adrenal gland to regulate the amount of corticosteroids that the body produces. Ketoconazole suppresses cortisol secretions within the adrenal glands, but can only treat about 75 to 80% of all cases. Anipryl rejuvenates the natural balance of chemicals in the brain to decrease Cushing’s disease symptoms and often delivers a high success rate.

Long Term Effects

If the disease is left untreated, the condition will worsen and eventually threaten the life of the dog with the development of additional disorders, including diabetes, kidney failure, congestive heart failure, and infections that attack the ears, eyes, bladder, or skin. Whenever it becomes apparent that your dog is suffering from Cushing’s disease, immediate medical attention is a must.


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