Cushing’s disease in dogs: symptoms, treatment and prevention

cushing's disease in dogs symptoms and treatments

Cushing’s disease in dogs is a hormonal disease that affects older pets. If certain breeds are predisposed, it is important to be attentive to the signs which are unfortunately common and which tend to make think of the simple aging of the animal. However, it is important to act quickly when in doubt in order to detect and treat the disease as soon as possible. Find out what Cushing syndrome in dogs is, what its symptoms and possible treatments are.

Cushing’s disease in dogs: what is it?

Cushing’s disease, also called Cushing’s syndrome or hyperadrenocorticism, is a hormonal, or endocrine, disease that is characterized by a large and prolonged production of cortisol in the body. This hormone is secreted by the adrenal glands, located above the kidneys, and is analogous to cortisone.

Cortisol is produced by the dog when it is stressed to help its body to fight against the negative emotions which occur. It also helps maintain a balanced metabolism of lipids, carbohydrates and proteins. When overproduced, this hormone can affect the dog’s metabolism and the proper functioning of its organs.

The affected dog sees his body gradually weaken. If left untreated, it ages prematurely and is more prone to various illnesses and infections, you can know about Benadryl for Dogs.

Causes and factors favoring Cushing’s syndrome

Most dogs affected by Cushing’s disease are animals at least 10 years old. Certain breeds are more affected than others, such as the Boston terrier, the Poodle, the Dachshund or the Yorkshire terrier. Except for Beagle and Boxer, the most affected breeds weigh less than 20 kg.

The causes of the disease are as follows:

A tumor of the pituitary gland or pituitary gland: this type of tumor, small and often benign, is involved in almost 85% of cases. The pituitary gland is a gland that produces a hormone that stimulates the adrenal glands. This tumor leads to an overproduction of cortisol and affects the condition of the dog’s muscles and organs.

A tumor of the adrenal glands: this form of tumor, malignant or benign, is involved in 15% of cases. It also produces a significant amount of cortisol which impacts the dog’s health.

What are the symptoms of Cushing’s disease dogs?

When a dog has Cushing’s disease, his body ages prematurely and his health gradually deteriorates. Several symptoms are visible:

  • The dog drinks a lot and urinates much more often than usual, which is called polyuro-polydipsia.
  • The animal eats more and in greater quantity, which is called polyphonic.
  • The dog loses its hair in large quantities.
  • His skin becomes thinner and calcified. It can be covered with infections and pigmentation disorders.
  • The animal is subject to obesity.
  • The dog’s muscles weaken and melt.
  • Her belly relaxes and hangs.
  • The dog is tired and gasps. The loss of energy is clearly visible.
  • The animal’s body ages prematurely.
  • He can sometimes lose his sight or be subjected to facial paralysis.
  • The disease promotes the onset of several other diseases, such as diabetes mellitus, infection of one or both kidneys, inflammation of the pancreas, pulmonary embolism, etc.

The difficulty of these symptoms lies in their relatively common character. They may indeed appear to be signs of old age. However, they are to be taken seriously. If in doubt, it is important to consult the veterinarian.

The diagnosis of Cushing’s syndrome

To confirm Cushing’s syndrome, the veterinarian begins with a general examination of the dog’s health. He can then undertake clinical tests:

  • Blood test to perform blood tests of plasma cortisol;
  • Blood test to perform blood tests of plasma cortisol;
  • The adrenal gland stimulation test with ACTH, the hormone that causes cortisol overproduction;
  • The dexamethasone cortisol production ordination test;
  • The dosage of cholesterol, because it generally increases in dogs affected by Cushing disease in dogs;
  • The blood sugar dosage, which can also slightly increase in this case;
  • Ultrasound and CT scan for final confirmation if needed.

How to treat Disease dog?

Treatment for Cushing’s disease depends on the tumor involved.

In cases of pituitary tumor

If the dog has a pituitary tumor, two solutions are possible:

  • Surgery removes the tumor. Often radiation therapy is required.
  • The use of trilostane for dogs may be recommended. It is a molecule that prevents the synthesis of cortisol. The dosage of trilostane depends on the animal and must be regularly checked and readjusted by blood tests. This treatment is given for life and helps reduce the effects of the disease.

In the event of a tumor of the adrenal glands

If the animal is affected by a tumor of the adrenal glands, there are also two possible solutions:

  • Surgery may be necessary to remove the tumor. The animal’s prognosis for survival is better if surgery can be performed.
  • If the tumor is not operable, the veterinarian may prescribe the use of mitotane. It is an effective molecule, but it can have unwanted effects.

The prognosis for Cushing’s disease

When the disease is diagnosed early and treated quickly, the animal can fully recover. On the other hand, if it is not taken care of in time, the life expectancy of the dog is reduced and its state of health deteriorates.

It is best to perform surgery, since the life prognosis is generally more favorable. However, be aware that this type of intervention is expensive and can present risks, like every operation. After an operation, the animal can live for several years.

Medication can help limit the effects of the tumor. This solution can allow the animal to live on average an additional year and a half. When a tumor is not operable, it is important to best relieve the animal’s state of health.

Can we prevent Cushing’s disease?

It is not really possible to prevent Cushing’s disease. However, for breeds of dogs predisposed to the development of the syndrome, it is advisable to watch for signs and symptoms from the age of 9 onwards. If in doubt, consult the veterinarian. Note also that practitioners are generally vigilant with the breeds most concerned, and they tend to check for the presence of the disease when the animal shows some signs of aging.

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