Cushing’s disease, known medically as hyperadrenocorticism, is a condition where the adrenal gland becomes hyperactive producing a hormone called cortisol; possibly brought on by either a pituitary or an adrenal gland tumor. Generally, this condition only affects dogs over the age of six, although, sometimes found in younger dogs it is quite rare.
Cushing’s disease, because it is seen in older dogs, can sometimes go unrecognized by pet owners; however, there are symptoms you can look for and bring to your Veterinarian’s attention:
- Hair Loss and Thinning skin – Hair loss can be around the elbows or wounds where the hair does not seem to grow back or hair falls-out in patches. This is the primary reason pet owners bring their dog to the Vet.
- Excessive Drinking and Urination – inflected dogs might drink more than twice the amount of water than normal causing an increase in urination.
- Excessive panting
- Lack of energy – Where they will avoid any type of exercise or activity.
- Expanded Appetite – They seem to become overly aggressive with protecting their food bowl, beg more often, and appear never getting enough to eat.
- Pot Belly – Cushing’s disease also causes weakness and loss in muscle mass along with thinning skin giving the appearance of a pot belly.
As pet owners when looking at our four-legged friends, we begin to get the feeling that something is wrong. Listen to your instincts and contact your Veterinarian for an appointment. As you can see from these symptoms how easy, it may be to brush off dogs with Cushing’s disease as old age.
It takes some specialized testing to diagnose dogs with Cushing’s disease such as a complete blood work up and urine test. Depending on the severity of the disease, there are available treatments with medication and possible surgery. Surgery is an option if the tumor can be located and safely removed. With the adrenal gland surgery can work, however the pituitary gland is located under the brain and is generally considered too risky a procedure.
A drug regiment can offer some relief; however, the side effects can be high and may include vomiting, diarrhea and lethargy. As with all medications, there are new alternatives coming to market all the time. Your Vet will be able to offer the best drug regimen.
As Cushing’s disease affects older dogs, as pet owners it is our responsibility to think of the quality of life our dog will have as well as our ability to administer treatment. Talk over your options with your Veterinarian and choose what is best for your dog.