Hyperadrenocorticism (Cushing’s Disease) in dogs

Hyperadrenocorticism is one of the most common hormone abnormalities to affect middle aged to older dogs, in particular Maltese Terriers, but can affect any breed.

The disease is the result of excess production of cortisol (stress hormone) which has many serious side effects and can cause serious harm to your dog’s health.

The most common form of Cushing’s disease is caused by a lesion in the pituitary gland in the brain, whereas the less common form is caused by a tumour in the adrenal glands situated next to the kidneys. The symptoms in each dog vary but the majority of dogs begin to eat and drink lots & simply look as though they are “getting old”. The symptoms often include Marked increase in water intake and increased urine output Ravenous appetite Pot belly (distended abdomen) Skin disease, scabby skin, chronic skin infections, bruising, hair loss Panting Becoming lethargic as though they have “no energy”

There are many serious long-term side effects which are caused by Cushings disease such as diabetes, pancreatitis, liver failure, cataracts, high blood pressure, kidney disease, systemic infections, chronic skin infections, strokes and osteoporosis.

Diagnosis of Cushing’s disease initially involves a screening blood & urine test which will help us determine if the disease is present or if there is another illness causing the symptoms. If the initial blood tests suggest Cushing’s disease most dogs require additional blood tests to confirm the diagnosis and then ascertain if it is pituitary or adrenal based. Some patients also require an abdominal ultrasound for final evaluation.

It is important for clients to recognise that this disease is a complicated one which warrants a very thorough and precise evaluation. Once Cushing’s disease is confirmed your dog will begin treatment which will be for the rest of its life. The pituitary dogs are prescribed a daily medication with follow up blood tests to monitor the progress of the treatment. Some patients will have their doses altered (just like a diabetic) depending on the response to medications and the test results. The adrenal dogs may undergo surgery to remove the tumour, if it is indicated, or in some cases be treated medically.

If your dog has any of the above symptoms or you have any questions please contact us a 4 Paws Vet.

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