The Dog Owners Guide to Cushings Disease in Dogs

Cushings disease in dogs (hyperadrenocorticism) is very often seen in older dogs and also smaller dog breeds. The cause of this health problem is normally due to an excess production of adrenal hormone (most notably corticosteroids)  by your dog’s adrenal glands. However, it can also be caused by too many corticosteroids being administered through the use of Prednisone. The diagnosis of this condition in your canine can be difficult mainly due to the similarity the symptoms have with the natural aging process. The disease comes in three types including…

  1. Latrogenic
  2. Pituitary Dependent Hyperadrenocorticism
  3. Adrenal Based Hyperadrenocorticism

As with all dog health problems you will need to get advice from your vet but below we have provided lots of general information including the symptoms and treatment.

Signs and Symptoms of Cushings Disease in Dogs

As previously mentioned this condition is caused when your dog starts to produce too much Cortisol (a hormone)   – this is due to the Adrenal Glands producing too much Cortisol. This hormone is one of the most important hormones that the Adrenal Glands produce but too much can cause very nasty symptoms. Problems start to occur when a chemical called ACHT (used by the Pituitary gland) that stimulates the Adrenal Glands to produce Cortisol  becomes confused and basically starts pumping way too much Cortisol into your dogs body.

One of the problems with Cushings disease is that the symptoms can easily be mistaken for the signs of aging. Common symptoms can include:

  • Your dog may have a reduced appetite but an increased appetite can also occur.
  • You may notice that your dog becomes thirsty more easily.
  • A previous house trained dog may also start to have accidents around the House. This is something that can easily be confused with an older dog who has lost some of their bladder control. If you ever have any doubts make sure that you take your dog to the vet – it is always best to be safe than sorry.
  • Your dog may appear bloated even slightly overweight – this might be due to swelling in the abdomen.
  • Excessive panting is another symptom of the disease.
  • Your pooch may also appear tired and lethargic and either struggle with exercise or appear slower during the walk with tiredness after.
  • Your dog’s skin may appear thinner than before the condition started.
  • You pooch may also have some muscle wastage – examine the muscles to see if they appear to be wasting away.
  • Your dog may also start to lose hair and even experience skin infections.
  • Your pooch may also spend much of his time sleeping.

As previously mentioned – older dogs are more likely to contract the disease but it is also more common in certain dog breeds including the:

  1. Golden Retriever
  2. Poodle
  3. Beagle
  4. Yorkshire Terrier
  5. German Shepherd
  6. Dachshund
  7. Schnauzer (miniature)
  8. Labrador Retriever.

Cushings disease in dogs is normally caused by a Tumor affecting either the Pituitary gland or a Tumor affecting the Adrenal Gland.

Cushings Disease Diagnosis, Treatment & Prevention

A vet will normally diagnose the condition through a thorough physical examination or by looking back at your dogs medical history. The condition can be deadly if it is not treated and it can lead to other medical conditions too.

A vet will not normally operate on a Tumor that is affecting the Pituitary Gland. The main treatment for this cause is through medications including Ketaconazole and Lysodren. The Lysodren is prescribed at specific levels to kill just enough of the Adrenal Gland (the outside layer) to stop the glands from producing too much corticosteroids. Tumors in the Adrenal glands are sometimes removed but this depends very much on the vet and whether or not the risks out weigh the possible benefits.

New canine medications have since been developed that can slow the release of ACTH. This new medication is called Anipryl and rather than killing parts of the Adrenal Glands it works with the Dopamine in the brain to slow and reduce the production of ACTH.

Unfortunately many dogs that develop he disease will not be cured and normal life expectancy is significantly reduced. To help prevent the condition or at least  spot it in its early stages make sure that you take your dog for regular check ups to monitor the blood levels and watch for changes in your dogs behavior.

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