Cushing’s Disease (Hyperadrenocorticism)
What is Cushing’s disease?
Cushing’s disease (Hyperadrenocorticism) is the abnormal circulation of excessively high levels of corticosteroids and the impact that this hormone has on various body systems. There are a number of different causes and thus it is one of the most common endocrine conditions in dogs while it is rare in cats.
How does my pet get Cushing’s disease?
Cushing’s disease may be caused by: the over secretion of hormones from the pituitary usually as a result of a tumor; the over production of cortisone by the adrenal glands as the result of a benign or malignant tumor; excessive administration of corticosteroids orally or injectably.
How do I know if my dog has Cushing’s disease?
The classic dog with hyperadrenocorticism will have increased water consumption, increased urination, increased appetite, a pendulous appearing abdomen, hairloss without regrowth, and obesity. Generally, Cushing’s disease is seen in middle-age and old dogs. It is rare to see it in young dogs. Adrenal tumors are more seen much more frequently in females than males. There are a few breeds that seem to be pre-disposed to Cushing’s disease (see below). If you have a middle age dog with the signs noted above, you should see your veterinarian. The veterinarian will run some basic blood and urine tests that will give an indication as to the likelihood of hyperadrenocorticism. To confirm Cushing’s disease, any of a number confirmatory blood tests will be needed. These results may suggest the need for an ultrasound.
What can I do about Cushing’s disease?
Treatment may be medical or surgical. Surgical procedures are limited to adrenal tumors and can be quite challenging and risky. There are a number of medications currently in use for Cushing’s disease. The goal with these medications is to decrease the levels of circulating corticosteroids. There is a very fine line between treating to control Cushing’s disease and causing significant secondary problems. Thus, it is very important to work closely with your veterinarian to monitor progress via examinations and follow up blood test. Untreated the prognosis is poor. Treatment is usually for the rest of the pet’s life.
Is there anything I can do to prevent my dog from getting Cushing’s disease?
Prevention is difficult except for cases caused by overusing prednisone or its similar drugs. The other causes are unpredictable. Careful breed selection may help.
Are there certain breeds that get Cushing’s disease more often?
Poodle, dachshund, Boston Terrier, boxer, beagle are reported to be at higher risk.