Cushing’s Disease (Hyperadrenocorticism)

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Posted by ron1945 | Posted in Cushing's Disease | Posted on 15-08-2010

Cushing’s Disease(hyperadrenocorticism) 

is a condition resulting from the chronic overproduction of the hormone Cortisol (also called hydrocortisone). (or too much glucocorticoid) by the adrenal glands located in the dog’s belly.  This disease impacts the middle aged (6 to 7 years) dogs, but can be in dogs younger and older. This is slow progressive disease, and may take years before sufficient symptoms appear to assume this specific problem.  The general symptoms give the appearance the dog is much older than it may be.  There are two types of the disease, each has it’s own treatment course.  Diagnosis and treatment of this disease are best suited for your veterinarian.

Many dog organ functions are affected by the hormone cortisol, and makes diagnosing the disease a challenge.  Some of the more pronounced symptoms could be (Alopecia) hair loss (mainly on the trunk or body of the dog), thinning of the skin, increased appetite, a pronounced pot-bellied look, and increased thirst–along with increased urination (including episodes of  “accidents” for housebroken dogs).  Other signs may include, on a lesser scale: panting, walking with a stiff gait and paw knuckled over, weakness, and difficulty breathing.

There are two types of Cushing’s  Disease:  Pituitary dependent and Adrenal-based.  The diagnosis of either of these two is best left to your veterinarian.

Pituitary dependent

This is the more common of the two types.  The pituitary gland in the brain over produces the hormone ACTH that is responsible for the regulation of the production of cortisol by the adrenal gland in the dog’s belly located over each of its two kidneys.

Adrenal dependent

Is the result of an adrenal tumor which causes the over-secretion of glucocorticoid.

There is another form less known calledLatrogenic Cushing’s Disease which comes from the dog having received large does of steroids . . . perhaps as treatment for another health problem.  This is like adding insult to injury because of the high levels of natural steroids being produced by the dog’s  overactive adrenal glands.  This form of the disease can be easily control by reducing or eliminating the steroid treatment.

In each of the two prominent causes of Cushing’s Disease, thorough diagnostic testing may be required.  This testing may include blood work, physical examination and x-rays or ultra-sound . . . all of which should be prescribed and performed by your veterinarian.

Treatment of the disease may come in the form of oral medication and/or surgery.  pituitary-dependent Cushing’s disease can be treated with a life long program of oral medications.  The long term prognosis from this treatment is considered good, but visible signs may take awhile to manifest themselves.

Treatment for the adrenal dependent form in most cases requires surgery to remove the cancerous tumor(s) affecting the adrenal glands.  If the cancer tumors have spread sufficiently to other parts of the dog’s body surgery may not be performed.  Oral medications may be prescribed, but not as effective as removal of the infected gland.    <<< Return to Dog Hair Loss Overview

The information contained in the articles on this website is provided for information purposes only. The articles are not written by veterinarians per se. As such, the information should not be considered as a replacement for the advice of a veterinarian. Great care is made in the creation of these articles; however, we cannot guarantee their accuracy and/or omissions. In all cases where doubt may exist, we recommend seeking appropriate professional veterinary advice and assistance.