How to Treat Cushing’s Disease in Dogs

Cushing’s disease is a very complex endocrine disorder that is most commonly found in older dogs. The disease causes the dog to produce too much cortisol and has many other effects on body function. Learn more about how to treat Cushing’s Disease in dogs here.

Understand the clinical signs and diagnosis of Cushing’s Disease.

Cushing’s disease is an endocrine disorder that can affect dogs of all ages, breeds and genders. Most dogs diagnosed with Cushing’s exhibit a noticeable change in behavior, such as increased thirst, urination and appetite. They may also have muscle weakness or weight loss due to the effects of cortisol on muscle tissue. The most common clinical signs of Cushing’s include:

  • Increased thirst
  • Increased urination
  • Muscle weakness
  • Weight loss
  • Abdominal swelling

Visit your veterinarian to have your dog assessed.

Before your veterinarian can recommend a treatment plan, they’ll need to make a medical diagnosis. They will perform a physical exam of your dog and may also take blood samples for testing. Additional tests may include:

  • A urinalysis to check for signs of diabetes or kidney disease
  • An x-ray of the adrenal glands (the small organs found on top of each kidney) to determine if there are any tumors present

Choose a treatment option for your dog.

  • Treatment of Cushing’s disease in dogs can be divided into two categories: addressing the cause of the disease and treating the symptoms.
  • When it comes to addressing the cause of the disease, there are several options available, including: surgery (to remove pituitary tumors), medication (to reduce cortisol levels), radiation therapy and chemotherapy drugs that target tumor cells. The success rate for these treatments varies depending on how aggressive it has been diagnosed as well as on other factors like age and health history.
  • Because this treatment option involves removing parts of your dog’s body, these treatments are often reserved for later stages after diagnosis when trying other methods have failed.

Educate yourself about Cushing’s disease.

  • It’s important to understand that Cushing’s disease is a complex condition, and the symptoms can vary from dog to dog.
  • There are three types of Cushing’s disease: pituitary-dependent, adrenal tumor-dependent and iatrogenic.
  • Pituitary-dependent Cushing’s is caused by an excess of ACTH (adrenocorticotropic hormone), which is produced in the pituitary gland, located at the base of your dog’s brain. The body produces ACTH when it senses that there isn’t enough cortisol in circulation—and so it tells the adrenal glands to produce more cortisol. This results in too much cortisone in your dog’s system!
  • Adrenal tumor-dependent Cushing’s occurs when tumors grow on either one or both adrenal glands; these tumors produce too much cortisol themselves without any help from ACTH being released into your pet’s bloodstream.

The proper treatment of Cushing’s depends on early recognition, diagnostic testing and verification of diagnosis by an experienced specialist.

The proper treatment of Cushing’s depends on early recognition, diagnostic testing and verification of diagnosis by an experienced specialist. Early diagnosis is critical because it allows for the most effective treatment. It’s also important to have proper follow-up care throughout the dog’s life, which may include periodic monitoring by a vet or endocrinologist.