Signs Of Cushing’s Disease In Dogs, Diagnosis And Treatment Options


Signs Of Cushing’s Disease In Dogs, Diagnosis And Treatment Options

Cushing’s Disease In Dogs

Cushing’s Disease is also termed hyperadrenocorticism.

It is a disorder characterized by excessive production of cortisol by the adrenal glands.

The adrenal glands (small bean-shaped glands located near the kidneys) most often produce excessive amounts of cortisol because they are stimulated to do so by the master hormone gland, the pituitary gland, which is a pear-shaped gland at the base of the brain.

10-15% of dogs with Cushing’s disease develop high cortisol levels because of an adrenal gland tumor, which is producing the excess hormone.


Signs Of Cushing’s Disease In Dogs

Symptoms Of Cushing’s Disease:

The disease is a result of the high cortisol levels and signs include:

  • poor hair coat,
  • hair loss,
  • enlarged belly,
  • increased thirst,
  • increased urination,
  • and increased appetite.

Dogs with Cushing’s disease are also more prone to infections and diabetes mellitus.


Diagnosis Of Cushing’s Disease:

Diagnosis is made based on clinical signs and laboratory testing (including blood and urine tests).

Besides routine blood screens, your veterinarian may advise doing an ACTH response test or a low dose and/or high dose dexamethasone suppression test to help diagnose Cushing’s disease and localize the cause (adrenal vs pituitary).

Urine cortisol: creatinine ratios are also often used as a screening test for Cushing’s disease.

Abdominal ultrasound is often used as an aid in diagnosis also and can often be used to visualize the adrenal glands directly, especially if they are enlarged.


Treatment Of Cushing’s Disease:

Treatment varies depending on the individual patient’s clinical signs and laboratory test results.

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The origin of the disease (i.e. whether it is caused by stimulation from the pituitary gland or an adrenal gland tumor) effects the type of treatment required also.

  • Surgery may be necessary in some cases (removal of adrenal gland tumors).
  • In other cases (especially pituitary-dependent disease), medical management with Lysodren, Ketoconazole, Trilostane or Anipryl may be more effective.
  • Lysodren is generally the drug of choice, with ketoconazole being used for those dogs that cannot tolerate or do not respond well to Lysodren.
  • Anipryl has been used with success in some dogs but seems to have a more limited success rate than Lysodren.
  • Trilostane is not yet licensed in the United States.
  • Under certain circumstances, radiation treatment may be indicated as well.

Your dog’s veterinarian can help you in determining the most appropriate course of action for your dog based on the results of a thorough physical examination and laboratory workup of your dog.

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