A dog afflicted with Cushing’s disease will exhibit one or more of the following symptoms: a pot-bellied appearance, its skin appears thinner, excessive hair loss on the body but not the head and legs, an increase in appetite and drinking, an increase in urination, difficulty breathing, or you will notice that your dog bruises easily.
If your four-legged friend is experiencing any one or more of these symptoms, it could be that your dog is suffering from Cushing’s disease. Take your four-legged friend to the veterinarian for a complete diagnosis as soon as possible.
What is Cushing’s disease?
“Cushing’s disease (hyperadrenocorticism) is the overproduction of the hormone cortisol by the adrenal glands that are located in the belly near the kidneys. Cortisol affects the function of many organs in the body, so the signs of Cushing’s disease may be varied” according to Washington State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine.*
Is there a specific age a dog can experience Cushing’s disease?
Cushing’s disease will appear when a dog is 6 years or older. However, it has been known to occur in younger dogs.
Where does Cushing’s disease occur?
Pituitary-dependent and adrenal-dependent Cushing’s are the two forms of Cushing’s disease.
The area most commonly affected is the pituitary gland (which is located in the brain). When it affects the pituitary gland, Cushing’s disease creates an overproduction of a hormone which then forces the pituitary gland to produce an excessive amount of cortisol.
Adrenal-dependent Cushing’s is not as common and it occurs when a tumor forms in the adrenal glands.
How does Cushing’s disease affect a dog’s health?
Due to the overproduction of cortisol, a dog afflicted with Cushing’s disease will have its immune system compromised. Your dog will develop a bacterial infection in its bladder.
How is Cushing’s disease diagnosed?
If Cushing’s disease is suspected, your veterinarian will perform a physical exam and a series of blood and urine tests. Indicators of Cushing’s are a high white blood cell count, an increase in a liver enzyme, an elevated blood sugar count, increase in cholesterol levels and evidence of dilution in the urine. In the case of adrenal-dependent Cushing’s, x-ray results will show an enlarged liver, or an enlargement of one or both of the adrenal glands.
How is Cushing’s disease treated?
Pituitary-dependent Cushing’s is treated by administrating oral medications throughout your dog’s lifespan. Most likely your veterinarian will prescribe Vetoryl which is the only “FDA-approved animal drug that contains trilostane as the active ingredient.”** Trilostane has been proven effective in the treatment of pituitary-dependent Cushing’s disease. If your dog has adrenal-dependent Cushing’s disease surgical removal of the affected adrenal gland is the preferred method of treatment.
Vetoryl (Trilostane) is indicated for the treatment of pituitary-dependent hyperadrenocorticism (Cushing’s Syndrome) in dogs. Vetoryl is available in the following strengths: 5 mg, 10 mg, 30 mg, 60 mg and 120 mg.
In conclusion, Cushing’s disease usually occurs in dogs 6 years or older. Symptoms include body hair loss, increased appetite, increased drinking, increase urination, a pot-bellied appearance, its skin appears thinner, difficulty breathing, or the dog bruises easily. Cushing’s disease occurs in two areas of a dog’s body. Pituitary-dependent Cushing’s causes the pituitary gland to produce an excessive amount of cortisol. A tumor in one or both of the adrenal glands causes adrenal-dependent Cushing’s. If a dog with Cushing’s is left untreated its immune system will be compromised and most likely will develop a bacterial infection in the bladder. If your dog has pituitary-dependent Cushing’s disease, the recommend treatment is through oral medications such as Vetoryl for dogs. In the case of adrenal-dependent Cushing’s disease, removal of the affected adrenal gland is the preferred method of treatment. If diagnosed and treated early, your dog will be able to lead a normal and healthy life.
*Source: “Cushing’s Disease”. Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine. 18 January 2016. Wed. http://www.vetmed.wsu.edu/ClientED/cushings.aspx#top Retrieved on May 18, 2017.
**Source: “VETORYL (trilostane) Capsules – Veterinarian” 25 February 2016. Web. http://www.fda.gov/AnimalVeterinary/SafetyHealth/ProductSafetyInformation/ucm182038.htm Retrieved on May 18, 2017.