Cushing’s disease in Dogs | Type, Reason, Symptoms & Treatments

Cushing’s disease in Dogs

Definition of Endocrine Systems – An understanding of  Endocrine system is needed to know more about Cushing’s disease in Dogs. 

The Endocrine systems consist of all glands in the body that make up the Hormones. These include the Hypothalamus, Pituitary and Pineal Gland in the brain. The Thyroid and the Parathyroid gland are in the neck. The Cortisol is another hormone which performs stress absorbs function. These entire glands are sort of chemical carrying messengers which take care that the body should work the way it is supposed to work. 

A weak endocrine system means difficulty in puberty, pregnancy and stress management. This leads to low level energy, weak bones and weight gain. Too much cortisol can have bad effect on body.

What is Cushing’s disease in Dogs?

An excess of Cortisol in the body is known as hyperadrenocorticism or in more simple words as Cushing’s disease. This is one of the most common types of Endocrine illness that affects all breed of dogs.

The Cushing’s disease in Dogs in dogs happen when there is an overdose of cortisol in a dog’s body or in situations whereby a dog is given corticosteroid medications over more than the required time frame and that too in high dosages. In some cases, the adrenal gland tumour causes the increase of cortisol in the body. Some of the type of medications that can cause this illness is - dexamethasone, triamcinolone, prednisone etc.

What causes this disease ? 


The main reason due to which the dogs get this disease or condition known as hyperadrenocorticism is the non-spreading pituitary tumour. This condition of Cushing’s disease in Dogs developing because of the pituitary gland is called pituitary-dependent hyperadrenocorticism (PDH). Around 80 to 85 % of dog disease is caused through this. The adrenal gland is responsible for causing the balance 15 to 20 % of the disease. Adrenal tumours can turn out to be malignant in some of the cases. The malignant tumours which have a tendency to metasize or spread throughout the body of the dog have a much less chance of giving the disease to the dogs.

When dogs get normally illness like allergy, inflammation, immunity problems etc, then medicines having corticosteroids are administered to them. There are steroids containing ear drops which are absorbed through the skin causing Cushing’s. Sometimes excessive levels in the medicine may have adverse effect on the dog’s body leading to Cushing’s disease. Sometimes even normal dosages can create problems. To a great extent it depends on the body system of the dog and the breed.

What type of dogs and breed get affected?

Mostly the middle aged to the elder or aged dogs has more chances of getting the Cushing’s disease. Some breeds stand a higher risk compared to other breeds. The Poodle, Boston terrier, Beagle, Boxer and Dachshund are breeds which can easily get this.

What are the symptoms of Cushing’s disease in Dogs?

There are several symptoms that will appear in Cushing’s disease. But sometimes the pet owner and the veterinary doctor will need to go for certain diagnostic test also. This is because some of the symptoms that the dog shows will be common to other types of dog illness. The symptoms in Cushing’s disease will take time to develop, sometimes as long as a year. In many they are mistaken as normal signs of getting old and the owners neglect it. The result is that by the time the disease is detected it goes into an advanced stage.

  • Polynesia and Polyuria - This is a condition of increased thirst and increased urination in the dogs.
  • The dogs have a feeling of increased hunger and increased panting which is much above the normal panting level of the dogs.
  • Pot-bellied abdomen and increasing weight
  • Repeated infections of skins, ears and the urinary tract.
  • Fat and visible pads on the dog’s neck and shoulders. Further blackheads also appear on the skin.
  • Loss of hair on the neck, perineum and the flanks of the dog
  • Lack of energy in doing the daily activities and reduced level of exercises
  • Muscle weakness.
  • Inability to sleep, also known as insomnia.
  • The starting symptoms will be high amount of water intake and frequent urination in the night. At later stages, the muscles become weak and the dog starts to become lethargic.
  • Hard and visible white scaly patches on the skin, especially the elbow portion.
  • Frequent behavioral changes in ways like – sudden seizures, constant circling, long periods of restlessness etc

How is the Diagnosis of this done?


Since this is a deep internal disease with multiplication factor inside the dogs body, the veterinary doctor will have a take a complete body test of the dog, This includes – Blood chemistry profile, total blood cell count, urinary analysis, Fecal test .


In the urine test, a cortisol to creatinine ratio is examined and if this is an imbalance then further test are carried on. The most used test is the low-dose dexamethasone suppression test.


The baseline level of cortisol in the dog is taken into account and then a dose of dexamethasone is administered. After this, blood cortisol level is again measured in span of 4 and 8 hours. In a dog which has got the Cushing’s disease, the cortisol level is not suppressed. The abdominal ultrasound is performed sometimes to detect the presence of this disease.

What are the Treatments possible for Cushing’s disease in dogs?


Medication Overdose

This disease mainly happens due to overdose of Cortisteroid medication. The best treatment would be slow down or stop the medication. But this needs to be done as per the dog’s condition and taking other side effects into consideration.


Addisonian Crisis

Suddenly stopping it can lead to another life threatening condition called is Addisonian crisis. It is better to start the treatment when symptoms like increasing water intake and increasing urinary passage in the night happens and other signs like excessive panting.


Some Drugs Medical Treatment

Once it is found out that Cushing’s disease in dogs is caused by pituitary glands, then the most likely to be used drugs are Pilostane and Trolostane. They have some side effects and usage has to be monitored. Other drugs which can be given include - Ketoconazole,or Cabergoline under specified circumstances.

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