Cushing’s Disease in Dogs (Hyperadrenocorticism) – What You Should Know

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This disease is known in the medical world as hyperadrenocorticism, which means an overproduction cortisol in the body. Cortisol is the stress hormone and the disease usually appears in dogs at the age of 6 years or older.

There are certain dog breeds predisposed to this illness. These breeds are: german shepherd, poodles, daschunds, terriers, and golden retrievers.

Types of Cushing’s disease

Cushing’s disease is known in 3 types: pituitary tumor, adrenal tumor, and iatrogenic.

Pituitary tumor – a tumor in the pituitary gland appears and this stimulates the over production of cortisol by the adrenal glands. This type of Cushing’s disease is the most common in canine patients.

Adrenal tumor- the adrenal gland develops a tumor and this breaks the equilibrium and causes big amounts of cortisol to appear. This is not a very common type of Cushing’s in dogs.

Iatrogenic – this type of disease develops when the patient has abused with the use of corticosteroids. The corticosteroids are used to treat different ailments such as arthritis, allergies, and various skin disorders. Because the blood is filled with corticosteroids the adrenal glands doesn’t secrete cortisol and starts to decrease in size.

Clinical symptoms of Cushing’s:

-the dog starts to eat a lot, drink and urinate in big quantities -it looses fur -the belly becomes pot like -excessive panting -the skin becomes thinner -the skin bruises easily -the dog is lethargic and weak -bladder infections appear

Diagnosis of canine Cushing’s:

In order to detect this illness, the veterinarian has to conduct a physical examination, do blood and urine tests, and also ultrasound and x-ray. Further laboratory tests may be necessary in order to determine the type of Cushing’s disease.

Treatment of Cushing’s disease in dogs

This disease is treated with drugs. Mitotane is well known and used and it destroys parts of adrenal cortex that produce cortisol. The dog under treatment needs to be watched carefully but if complications don’t appear, the dog should be able to live a long life on medication.

Another treatment is surgery. This implies that a part of the adrenal gland is removed so that it produces less cortisol. If the extracted tumor is benign, the life expectancy of the dog is very high. But if the tumor is malignant and it spreads to other body parts, the prognosis is not good and the dog could die.

The iatrogenic Cushing’s disease type is often treated by discontinuing corticosteroid in a controlled manner. This is done by slowly reducing the corticosteroid medication levels and, after a while, terminating the treatment when the adrenal gland can work on its own. Be aware that no matter what the treatment is, the dog will suffer drug side effects. This is why it is better to also research natural treatment methods and help the dog get healthy again.

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