The Course of Illness for Cushing's Disease in Dogs

by Naomi Millburn
    Listlessness sometimes signifies Cushing's disease in dogs.

    Listlessness sometimes signifies Cushing's disease in dogs.

    Janie Airey/Digital Vision/Getty Images

    Cushing's disease, or hyperadrenocorticism, is a medical condition that involves the adrenal glands and their excessive manufacturing of cortisol, which is a type of hormone. Cushing's disease appears most frequently in canines who are at least 6 years old. Some younger canines do experience the condition as well, however.

    Symptoms of Cushing's disease in canines emerge due to their bodies' contact with inordinate amounts of cortisol. Cushing's disease moves and develops in a slow manner. Some typical signs of the ailment include boosts in appetite, frequent urination, drinking more water than usual, feebleness of the muscles, swollen stomach, excessive panting, hypertension, troubles with reproduction, delicate skin and loss of hair. Cushing's disease also causes many dogs to experience repeated urinary tract infections.

    Telling signs of Cushing's disease frequently appear slowly, sometimes over the span of years. Because of this, owners of dogs with the condition often confuse them for the typical changes that appear with the normal aging process. Frequent and regular veterinary appointments, however, can be beneficial for identifying potential problems earlier on.

    If you think that your dog might have Cushing's disease or any other illness, a prompt checkup with a veterinarian is the only way to go. Once your pooch gets to the vet, she can assess his circumstances and perform various examinations on him. Vets can determine whether dogs have Cushing's disease via a group of tests. ACTH stimulation and low dose dexamethasone suppression examinations are particularly common. These tests both call for blood samples. Veterinarians also frequently conduct tests that examine the operations of the adrenal glands, such as the urine cortisol-to-creatinine ratio examination.

    After vets test and evaluate their canine patients, they can figure out which specific kind of Cushing's disease they have. The disease exists in two types -- pituitary-dependent and adrenal-dependent. Pituitary-dependent Cushing's disease appears more frequently in dogs, according to the experts at the Bonnie Brae Veterinary Hospital. When dogs have pituitary-dependent Cushing's, veterinarians often prescribe them medications such as Lysodren. Lysodren functions by killing the cells that manufacture cortisol within the adrenal glands. When dogs have adrenal-dependent Cushing's disease, they generally require surgical management. This surgery entails the extraction of tumors, whether benign or malignant. If your dog has Cushing's disease, your veterinarian can decide exactly which type of management is safe and optimal for his needs.

    When dogs with Cushing's disease receive proper veterinary care and attention, the prognosis is often strong. Survival in Cushing's disease differs depending on the specific ages of dogs upon diagnosis. If your dog has ever been diagnosed and treated for the disorder, routine veterinary supervision and checkups are key for continued success. Cushing's disease doesn't involve a "cure." It involves careful management and diligence by dogs' owners and veterinarians. If Cushing's disease isn't managed in a prompt manner, however, it can have deadly consequences in dogs, according to veterinarian Mark D. Setser. Cushing's disease can bring upon immune system suppression, for example -- an effect of the inordinate amounts of cortisol. This suppression can render dogs more vulnerable to potentially dangerous health ailments, including infections. This is why it's vital to never ignore possible signs of Cushing's disease in dogs.

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    • Janie Airey/Digital Vision/Getty Images

    About the Author

    Naomi Millburn has been a freelance writer since 2011. Her areas of writing expertise include arts and crafts, literature, linguistics, traveling, fashion and European and East Asian cultures. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in American literature from Aoyama Gakuin University in Tokyo.

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