Cushing’s Disease in Dogs
The overproduction of the hormone, cortisol, is a common condition in adult and senior dogs called Cushing’s Disease. Cortisol is produced by the adrenal glands so another name for this disease is hyperadrenocorticism. The increase in cortisol can be caused by a tumor on the adrenal gland or by increased cues from the pituitary gland in the brain to trigger cortisol production.
Hormones have effects on many different organ systems, so the increased cortisol creates a variety of symptoms. The most common symptoms of Cushing’s Disease are hair loss on the dog’s body (less so on the head & legs), pot belly, insatiable appetite and increase thirst / urination. Their fur becomes dry and they lose muscle tone. When the dog’s hormones are out of whack, the body becomes more susceptible to infection. As the disease progresses the dog may pant more often or have difficulty breathing. Severe cases can lead to congestive heart failure or develop diabetes. You may notice behavior changes, lethargy, blood clots or even seizures.
Cushing’s can be difficult to diagnose because there is no specific test for the condition. If you notice any changes in your dog that were mentioned above it is a good idea to notify your veterinarian. Evaluation of the dog’s symptoms combined with an increase of white blood cells, liver enzymes and sugar levels in a blood test along with dilute urine typically point to Cushing’s. There is no cure for Cushing’s Disease, but many treatments are available to support your pet. In the case of adrenal tumors, your vet may need to operate to remove the tumor. You and your vet will need to closely monitor your dog to ensure that their symptoms are being properly managed, but most Cushing’s dogs can still live normal lives.
Plasma profiles of adrenocorticotropic hormone, cortisol, alpha-melanocyte-stimulating hormone, and growth hormone in dogs with pituitary-dependent hyperadrenocorticism before and after hypophysectomy.
Characterization and comparison of insulin resistance induced by cushing syndrome or diestrus against healthy control dogs as determined by euglycemic-hyperinsulinemic glucose clamp profile glucose infusion rate using an artificial pancreas apparatus.