What is Cushing's disease?
Cushing's disease (or hyperadrenocorticism) develops when too much of the hormone cortisol is produced from the adrenal glands, which are located above each kidney. In the majority of dogs this is caused by a growth in part of the brain called the pituitary gland. In some dogs it may be caused by a tumour in one of the adrenal glands.
Who can get Cushing's disease?
Cushing's disease usually develops in dogs older than 6 years of age. Breeds which are commonly diagnosed with Cushing's include Poodles, Dachshunds, German Shepard dogs, Beagles and Labrador retrievers.
Signs of Cushing's
Dogs with Cushing's disease may develop a variety of clinical signs as a result of the excessive cortisol production. Drinking more and urinating more are common clinical signs along with an increased appetite, panting, a potbelly, hair loss and lethargy. These signs are often more obvious in small breed dogs. Dogs with Cushing's disease may be more prone to developing skin or urinary tract infections.
Diagnosing Cushing's disease
The clinical signs described above can be used to help a vet diagnose a dog with Cushing's disease. Once signs of Cushing's have been detected, usually, the first step in diagnosis is to test the dog's blood. If the results of the blood test suggest that Cushing's disease is present, then another test is used to confirm the diagnosis.
Treating Cushing's disease
The first line treatment for Cushing's disease in dogs is a drug called Trilostane. This drug halts the excessive production of cortisol from the adrenal glands. Trilostane comes in a capsule and can be given to the dog by mouth with food, but frequent monitoring of treatment is required and a significant cost is involved. Once dogs are treated the clinical signs usually resolve.