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What Causes Cushing’s Disease in Dogs? (Symptoms, Treatment)

What Causes Cushing’s Disease in Dogs?

It’s only normal to be worried about your dog getting all manners of horrible diseases, ones that are difficult for them and you. That’s why so many of you have asked us what causes Cushing’s Disease in dogs? So, let’s see if we can put your mind at rest.

What Causes Cushing’s Disease in Dogs?

Cushing’s Disease is otherwise known as hyperadrenocorticism. It is caused when a dog’s body overproduces the hormone cortisol, a natural steroid produced in the adrenal glands. Overproduction of cortisol can be caused by a pituitary tumor or a tumor in the adrenal glands. The most common cause of Cushing’s Disease in dogs is pituitary tumors. Less than 25% of dogs diagnosed with Cushing’s Disease will have adrenal tumors.

Cortisol is naturally occurring steroid that typically assists in regulating many of your dog’s body functions such as skin, weight, and tissue structure. But like anything, too much cortisol can wreak havoc on your dog’s body by weakening their immune system.

Symptoms of Cushing’s Disease in Dogs?

Dogs that are getting older are most susceptible to Cushing’s Disease. Symptoms can be gradual and can vary for each dog. Many of the symptoms for Cushing’s disease can also result due to other health issues, and there isn’t a specific test to confirm Cushing’s Disease, which can make diagnosis tricky. Adrenal tumors can typically be seen upon ultrasound of the abdomen region. There are several exams and hormone tests your vet can do to rule out other causes.

The most common symptoms of Cushing’s Disease in dogs include:

  • Increased thirst
  • Panting
  • More frequent urination or accidents in the house
  • Swollen stomach area
  • Hair loss
  • Nervous system disorders
  • Muscle weakness
  • Skin lumps or change in skin color
  • Fatigue
  • High blood pressure

Treatment for Cushing’s Disease in Dogs

For dogs that suffer from Cushing’s Disease caused by adrenal tumors, treatment typically involves medication. In some cases, your vet will recommend surgery to remove the tumors, if they have not already spread to other areas. Surgery for pituitary-dependent over production of cortisol is not yet an option.

Cushing’s disease in dogs can be managed with medication but it is a chronic condition. One medication used for both types of Cushing’s Disease in dogs is Vetoryl. This medication stops overproduction of cortisol in the adrenal glands.

Lysodren, a chemotherapy drugs used for humans, has been prescribed as treatment for Cushing’s caused by pituitary tumor but side effects are plentiful. Dogs diagnosed with Cushing’s who receive proper treatment and frequent monitoring by a vet can live a good life.

Untreated Cushing’s Disease in Dogs

Unfortunately for your dog, many of the symptoms of Cushing’s Disease can appear to be simply the effects of getting older. Middle age and older dogs do tend to exhibit many of the symptoms such as more frequent urination, hair loss, muscle weakness, fatigue, etc.

For adrenal-dependent Cushing’s Disease, surgery to remove the tumors can be done if they haven’t spread to other areas. This means diagnosing Cushing’s Disease as early as possible can have a direct impact on successful treatment.

Untreated Cushing’s Disease can be fatal for your dog. It can eventually cause the kidneys and liver to fail, lead to heart failure, diabetes, and increased chronic issues such as bladder infections or infections in the eyes, ears, mouth, and skin. If you suspect your dog may have Cushing’s Disease, seek assistance from your vet as soon as possible.