Cushings Disease in Dogs: Diagnosis and Treatment

What is It?

Cushing’s disease or hyperadrenocorticism, occurs when the body produces too much cortisol.

What Causes It?

There are two causes of Cushing’s disease. The first and most common is pituitary-dependent. Pituitary-dependent is a result of a tumor on the pituitary gland. The tumor signals the gland to produce increased adrenocorticotropic hormone (ATCH), which in turn signals the adrenal gland to produce more cortisol.

The second cause of Cushing’s disease is a tumor on the adrenal gland. The tumor signals the adrenal gland to produce more cortisol.

Increased cortisol in the blood weakens the immune system. A weakened immune system leaves the body more susceptible to illness and injury.

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What Are The Symptoms?

  • Increased thirst
  • Increased urination
  • Weakened muscles
  • Lesions on skin
  • Hair loss
  • Weight gain
  • Listlessness

Is it Life Threatening?

Pituitary-dependent prognosis will vary based on the size of the tumor. Medication is largely helpful with this type and can in many cases control the issue and return your pup to normal life.

Adrenal-dependent prognosis is based on biopsy of the tumor classified as benign or malignant. With a benign tumor, your dog will likely return to normal life once healed from surgery. Malignant tumors do not have a favorable prognosis.

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How is It Diagnosed?

Cushing’s disease is diagnosed using one of two methods, either and ATCH stimulation test or the low-dose dexamethasone suppression (LDDS) test. An ultrasound may be given to determine the size of the tumor on the pituitary or adrenal gland.

What Are The Treatments?

The type of Cushing’s will dictate the treatment recommended by a veterinarian.

Pituitary-dependent treatment is typically two medications trilostane and mitotane.

With adrenal-dependent, your veterinarian will likely recommend surgery to remove the tumor or tumors.

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 pup’s condition, please make an appointment with your veterinarian. Or, consult a virtual vet here.