If you’re the owner of a senior-aged dog, you’ve probably heard of Cushing’s Disease. It’s also known as hyperadrenocorticism, and it is one of the most common medical conditions that affects older dogs. The reason is that as dogs age, their endocrine systems become less efficient at controlling hormone production. For those with Cushing’s disease, this means an overproduction of cortisol in their adrenal glands.
Part I: What is Cushing’s Disease?
Cushing’s disease is a disease of the adrenal glands. The adrenal glands are located on top of each kidney, and they produce many vital hormones. One of these hormones is cortisol, which helps the body deal with stress by making it easier to burn fat and sugar for energy when you’re in times of high stress.
In Cushing’s disease, excess cortisol is produced in response to an oversecretion of ACTH (adrenocorticotropic hormone) from an underlying cause such as cancer or benign tumors in either one or both of your adrenal glands called adenomas. It can also be caused by pituitary tumors that release too much ACTH into your system—this causes the adrenal gland to produce too much cortisol (or even other steroid hormones).
Part II: Types of Cushing’s Disease
Cushing’s disease can be caused by a tumor on the pituitary gland, adrenal glands, hypothalamus or thyroid gland.
This type of Cushing’s disease is called pituitary-dependent Cushing’s disease (PDCD) because it originates from a benign tumor on or near the pituitary gland. The most common type of PDCD in dogs is an adenoma that develops on one side of the pituitary gland and secretes too much ACTH into your pet’s bloodstream.
Tumors that develop on the adrenal glands are known as ectopic tumors and are called corticotropin dependent (CDD). CDD tumors develop in areas outside of their normal location within the brain or body tissues where they secrete excessive amounts of cortisol into your pet’s bloodstream without any stimulation from ACTH released by healthy structures within their brains.
Part III: Symptoms of Cushing’s Disease
You may notice that your dog has an increased thirst and urination, which can cause him to drink more water than usual or urinate more frequently. Your dog may also have an increased appetite, and he’ll most likely gain weight as the disease progresses.
As the disease continues, you might notice that your dog is becoming weaker in his hindquarters (the back end of the body) and has difficulty climbing stairs or getting up from a lying position.
Your dog may also develop skin problems such as hair loss, redness around his eyes with itching, scratching and chewing of paws or face; rashes on his belly; bald patches on his neck; lumps under his skin; pale gums (the soft tissue around teeth); darkening of the skin due to bruising easily when touched roughly by humans; very dark urine that appears brownish in color rather than yellowish-green; blood in vomit or feces (poop).
Part IV: Diagnosing Cushing’s Disease in Dogs
Cushing’s disease is a complicated condition that can be difficult to diagnose. Your veterinarian will likely run several tests on your dog, including blood work and urine analysis. Sometimes these tests are enough to identify Cushing’s as the cause of symptoms in your pet.
- Weight gain in spite of eating less food than normal;
- Muscle weakness;
- Darkened skin around the eyes;
- Increased thirst/urination;
Part V: Treating Cushing’s Disease in Dogs
In some cases, it’s possible to treat this disease with medication. However, if your dog is one of the 50% that does not respond well to medications or is dealing with a more severe case of Cushing’s Disease, you’ll need to consider surgery. Surgery can be done in several ways depending on what’s causing the condition in your pet and how far along it is.
If surgery isn’t an option or if your dog doesn’t respond well enough following treatment for Cushing’s Disease, lifestyle changes may help reduce their symptoms. These include reducing activity level and stress (which can be difficult), monitoring diet and nutrition levels closely, as well as regular veterinary checkups so any potential problems are caught early on before they become big ones!
Learn the warning signs of this serious condition and how to get your dog on the road to recovery.
Cushing’s disease manifests as a hormone disorder caused by tumors in the pituitary gland, adrenal glands, thyroid gland, and kidneys. The symptoms of Cushing’s disease can be difficult to diagnose because they’re similar to those associated with other common illnesses that affect older dogs.
We hope this article has helped you better understand Cushing’s disease in dogs. Your dog is your best friend, so it’s important to keep them happy and healthy. If you have any questions about Cushing’s disease, or suspect that your dog may be suffering from this condition, you should contact a veterinarian immediately. After all, the sooner treatment begins, the more likely it is that your pet will make a full recovery.