Are you worried about recent changes in your pup’s behaviour and appearance? While they can result from many things (hopefully nothing serious), one condition you can consider, although rare, is Cushing’s Disease. This blog discusses Cushing’s disease, what to watch out for, its treatment, and how you can prevent your fur buddy from developing it.
What is Cushing’s Disease?
Cushing’s disease, also known as hyperadrenocorticism, is a hormonal disorder commonly found in dogs (and cats) of different breeds and ages, particularly in middle-aged dogs (7-12 years old).
It happens when the adrenal glands overproduce cortisol. Known as the stress hormone, cortisol is responsible for helping regulate the body’s response to stress. Too much of it can lead to various health problems and a range of symptoms and complications. That’s why early detection and treatment are critical for the long-term health of your furry friend.
3 Types of Cushing’s Disease
Pituitary-dependent – the most common form of Cushing’s disease in dogs, accounting for approximately 80-85% of all cases. It is caused by a benign pituitary gland tumour, leading to an overproduction of adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH).
Adrenal-dependent – caused by a tumour in one or both of the adrenal glands, which leads to an overproduction of cortisol.
Iatrogenic – caused by prolonged exposure to high doses of corticosteroid medications, commonly used to treat a various medical conditions in dogs.
Each type has distinct causes and treatment options, so consult your veterinarian for appropriate medical advice.
Symptoms of Cushing’s Disease in Dogs
The signs of Cushing’s disease can be subtle and develop gradually over time. Some of the most common symptoms include:
- Increased thirst and urination
- Weight gain
- Distended belly
- Increased appetite
- Skin infections
- Hair Loss
Treatment of Cushing’s Disease in Dogs
The treatment depends on the underlying cause. If a tumour causes the disease, surgery may be necessary to excise the tumour. If it cannot be removed, medication, such as Trilostane, can be used to lower the production of cortisol in the body, managing the symptoms of the disease. Mitotane is another medication that destroys cells in the adrenal gland that produce cortisol.
It’s important to work closely with your vet to determine the best course of treatment for your furbaby.
Unfortunately, there is no guaranteed way to prevent Cushing’s disease in dogs. However, some steps exist to minimise a dog’s risk of developing it. Here are a few:
- Keep your dog at a healthy weight
- Avoid prolonged exposure to corticosteroids
- Take them for regular veterinary check-ups
- Get genetic testing to determine if your dog is predisposed to the disease
Cushing’s Disease in Dogs: Early Detection is Key
As a pet parent, you are the first person to notice changes in your pet. If you see any symptoms of Cushing’s disease, consult your veterinarian immediately. Early diagnosis is critical!
If your dog develops Cushing’s Disease, know that although it’s a lifelong condition, ensuring they get the proper treatment coupled with your understanding, patience, and care will make the symptoms manageable. Your fur buddy can still live a happy and healthy life.