Cushing’s disease in dogs symptoms and treatments

Cushing’s disease in dogs symptoms and treatments

Cushing’s syndrome or disease in dogs is a pathology that usually goes unnoticed in everyday life. Indeed, on the one hand these signs are not directly visible. On the other hand, they tend to be confused with the signs of aging of the animal which makes it almost impossible to detect without consultation.

Cushing’s disease in dogs is, however, a serious disease that must be detected early so that the animal can receive the best care. What is Cushing’s disease? What can cause this disease in a dog? How should a dog with Cushing’s disease be treated?

Here we give you all the information you need to know about this syndrome: causes, symptoms and treatments!

1- What is Cushing’s disease ?

Cushing’s disease is an endocrine and hormonal disorder that is very common in pets, especially dogs. It is also known by two other names: hypercorticism and hyperadrenocorticism. It results in a significant secretion of cortisol for an equally significant period of time. This hormone is secreted by the adrenal glands and is responsible for the metabolism of lipids, proteins, carbohydrates and the animal’s immune system in general. More specifically, cortisol helps the dog fight stress.

On the other hand, an excess of cortisone will irremediably disrupt the normal functioning of the body and cause various serious symptoms such as: general weakening, premature aging, exposure to various diseases and infections.

2- Causes of Cushing’s disease in dogs

Cushing’s disease in dogs can present itself in three different forms according to their causes:

2-1 Pituitary type Cushing’s disease

This is the most common form affecting nearly 85% of cases. It is caused by the presence of a benign tumor in the pituitary gland. Because of this tumor, the pituitary gland produces more ACTH than necessary and therefore stimulates the production of cortisol. As a result, the animal’s body will have a very high level of cortisol in the blood.

2-2 Adrenal type Cushing’s disease

Representing nearly 15% of cases, it is caused by the presence of a malignant or benign tumor of the adrenal glands.

2-3 Iatrogenic Cushing’s disease

This last form of Cushing’s syndrome is caused by the extensive and prolonged use of drugs containing potent corticosteroids.

2-4 Predisposition to Cushing’s disease in dogs

In addition, Cushing’s syndrome affects middle-aged and older dogs between 6 and 10 years of age. Some breeds also have a predisposition for this disease. This is the case for boxers, beagles, boston terriers, dachshunds, poodles, labradors, yorkshire terriers and jack russell terriers.

3- Symptoms of Cushing’s disease in dogs

Although the symptoms of Cushing’s disease in dogs are relatively common, the following visible signs should alert you:

Premature aging of the dog’s body. The dog’s belly will relax and enlarge significantly.

General deterioration of the animal’s health with a clearly visible loss of energy. He will always seem tired and panting.

Appearance of various diseases: diabetes mellitus, pulmonary embolism, kidney infection of one or both kidneys, inflammation of the pancreas… This disease can even cause facial paralysis and even loss of sight in the dog.

Change of physical appearance in the dog :

** loss of hair in large quantities;
** thinning and calcification of the skin (the skin may show various types of infections and pigmentation disorders);
** the animal seems to become obese;
** weakening and muscle wasting.

Changes in eating habits :

** Polyuro-polydipsia: the dog will drink much more and urinate much more than usual.
** Polyphagia: the dog will eat more than usual.

4- Treatment of Cushing’s disease in dogs

The treatment of Cushing’s disease depends on the cause and nature of the disease.

If the syndrome is of the pituitary type, surgery may be recommended to remove the tumor from the pituitary gland. Otherwise, the use of “trilostane”, a molecule that blocks the synthesis of cortisol, may be considered.

If the syndrome is adrenal, surgery is recommended to remove the tumor directly. Otherwise, the use of “mitotane” may also be considered. This molecule is effective in reducing cortisol secretion, however it can have many side effects.

If the syndrome is iatrogenic, drug treatment is sufficient to reduce the high cortisol production.


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