What Is Cushing’s Disease in Dogs: 6 Important Points

Want to know what is Cushing’s disease in dogs? Simply stated, Cushing’s disease is a disorder in which the overproduction of cortisol takes place in a dog’s body. Now, let us understand this in detail. 

What is Cushing’s Disease in Dogs?

Cushing’s disease in dogs is caused when the hormone called cortisol is produced in very large amounts. In other words, when adrenal glands1 overproduce cortisol it starts getting stored in the adrenal gland itself. 

Adrenal glands are very important in humans, cats, and dogs. They are regulated by the pituitary gland which is further regulated by the hypothalamus2.

There are so many reasons behind the development of this Cushing disease in dogs. It might be due to pituitary tumours, adrenal gland tumours, and adrenal tumours.

How to Recognise Cushing's Disease: P Disease

1. Common Types of Cushing’s Disease in Dogs

Mostly Iatrogenic Cushing’s disease occurs naturally in dogs and cats. This crushing disease is more often in dogs as compared to cats. The two very common types of Cushing’s disease in dogs are:

Almost 80 to 85 percent of Cushing’s disease is pituitary-dependent Cushing’s disease. This is triggered when there is the presence of pituitary gland tumours3.

Almost 15 to 20 percent of the cause of the crushing disease is the presence of tumours in one or both of the adrenal glands.

The pituitary gland is responsible for making several hormones, including the ACTH (adrenocorticotropic hormones), this particular hormone passes through the bloodstream and reaches the adrenal glands in return the adrenal glands produce cortisol.

dog in a field
Photo by Angel Luciano on Unsplash

But no need to worry about pituitary tumours. Dogs’ adrenal gland tumours can be identified by blood tests and ACTH stimulation tests4.

The doctors do various tests to confirm whether it is an adrenal tumour or a pituitary tumour. 

After observing the blood clots, testing adrenal low dose, urinary tract infections, presence of excessive cortisol, and other symptoms the doctor starts the treatment of the dog to reduce the severe illness and increased risk.

2. Common Symptoms of Cushing’s Disease in Dogs

Cushing’s disease is diagnosed by follow-up blood tests and physical exams of excess cortisol and by running adrenal function tests along with observing the dog’s symptoms

Cushing's Disease in Dogs - Signs, Diagnosis and Treatment

  • Excessive production of cortisol
  • Increase in thirst
  • Increased appetite
  • Fragile and thin skin
  • Loss in hairs
  • Reduction in activities
  • Abdomen enlargement

Symptoms of Cushing’s disease will keep on increasing and become severe if not treated properly on time.

Curing Cushing’s disease is not an easy task, but it can be cured if the owner takes proper care of their pet and helps him regain normal health.

3. Treatment for Cushing’s Disease in Dogs

Dogs with Cushing’s disease need a bit more care than normal dogs. Doctors first go for the hit and try, which means they try different medicines’ reactions on the dog’s body and observe the side effects. Then accordingly they go for prescribing the required drug to the animal. 

Although Cushing’s disease has no permanent treatment, the situation can be controlled by giving suitable medication to the pet, developed and approved by the FDA.

Few medication side effects are also observed in the animals, but they are not life-threatening.

Vetoryl is the only medicine that has been approved among all the medication treatments for both adrenal-dependent and pituitary-dependent Cushing’s diseases in dogs.

Photo by Edson Torres on Unsplash

Through the surgical method, the adrenal tumours can also be removed – by removing the adrenal gland. Furthermore, practical studies are still in progress for the pituitary gland tumour gland. It is more complicated, compared to adrenal tumour removal5.

However, the Vetoryl drug is not for dogs who have these conditions.

  • Having liver or kidney disease

  • Already taking medications for heart-related diseases

  • Which are pregnant

Side Effects –

The side effects of this vetoryl drug include:

  • vomiting
  • loss of appetite
  • weakness
  • diarrhea
  • energy loss
  • bloody diarrhea
  • adrenal gland destruction
  • Potassium and sodium imbalance

This is the reason regular follow-up blood tests are preferred by the doctor, to monitor the effect of the drug on the dog’s body.

Check the medication properly before giving any medication to your dog. Animals are more sensitive than home sapiens. The owner must take care of their dog in the best way possible. 

4. How Long Do the Dogs Live with Cushing Disease 

According to the American Kennel Club dogs with crushing disease live two years after developing this disorder. The survival rate after two years is only 10%.

Note that crushing disease is only reported in elder dogs, the younger and newborn puppies are safe from this disorder. The dogs that suffer from this disorder appear very thin and in the end, they lose most of their muscular power. 

The owner might also notice the development of lesions on their pet’s body. In some cases in place of muscle weakness obesity is observed.

A special diet is recorded for such dogs which fulfill the requirement of vitamins, minerals, and proteins in dogs’ bodies. Hill’s science diet for adult perfect weight is prescribed by the doctors. 

5. Dog Breeds Who Are Prone to Cushing Disease

white poodle pose studio background
From UnlimPhotos

Some breeds of dogs are prone to this particular disorder. These breeds include Poodles, Boxers, Boston Terriers, and Yorkshire Terriers.

They are required to follow the regular checkup and ensure that their dogs are safe from Cushing disease. 

6. Behaviour of Dogs Suffering from Cushing Disease 

The dogs who have Cushing disease are very aggressive, have exercise intolerance, face difficulty in moving in their day-to-day routine, increased pursuit of water and food.

They also find it difficult to move upstairs and onto escalators. If these behavioral changes are noticed in your dog then take your dog for a quick checkup. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) 

1. How long will a dog live with Cushing’s disease?

A dog with Cushing’s disease can live for a maximum of three years. There is, however, a two-year survival rate in some circumstances.

2. Is Cushing’s disease painful in dogs?

Most canines with Cushing’s disease don’t experience any pain, and medicine is an effective way to treat their symptoms.

3. Is walking good for a dog with Cushing’s disease?

For dogs with Cushing’s disease, regular exercise is crucial. It assists in weight management, maintains muscle tone, and fosters general well-being. However, it’s crucial to adjust the workout regimen to your dog’s physical needs and energy levels.1

Final Note

To summarise, the condition in which the adrenal gland starts producing the excessive amount of cortisol required in the body which ultimately causes the accumulation of cortisol on the adrenal gland is known as Cushing disease.

Hence, you must ensure to keep your dog safe from these conditions so that you and your pet can live a happy, trouble-free long life!

  1. Capen, C. C., and S. L. Martin. “Animal model: hyperadrenocorticism (Cushing’s-like syndrome and disease in dogs).” The American journal of pathology 81.2 (1975): 459. ↩︎
  2. Hennessy, Michael B. “Using hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal measures for assessing and reducing the stress of dogs in shelters: A review.” Applied Animal Behaviour Science 149.1-4 (2013): 1-12. ↩︎
  3. Sanders, Karin, Sara Galac, and B. P. Meij. “Pituitary tumour types in dogs and cats.” The Veterinary Journal 270 (2021): 105623. ↩︎
  4. Lathan, P., et al. “Use of a low‐dose ACTH stimulation test for diagnosis of hypoadrenocorticism in dogs.” Journal of veterinary internal medicine 22.4 (2008): 1070-1073. ↩︎
  5. Appelgrein, C., et al. “Short‐term outcome of adrenalectomy in dogs with adrenal gland tumours that did not receive pre‐operative medical management.” Australian veterinary journal 98.9 (2020): 449-454. ↩︎

Last Updated on by laibaarif



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