What is Cushing’s Disease?
Cushing’s disease is a “catch-all” term for the signs caused by excess cortisol in the bloodstream. Cortisol is a steroid hormone produced by two small bean-shaped glands that sit near the kidneys called adrenal glands. Cortisol is secreted in times of stress to increase blood sugar – a source of fuel readily used by body tissues, thus, helping the body cope better with stress.
Cortisol becomes a problem when produced in excess by the adrenal glands or when a pet or person (it can also affect humans) is receiving too much from an outside source. Some of these outside sources include common steroid drugs such as prednisone, prednisolone, dexamethasone and hydrocortisone among others. In excess, cortisol causes high blood sugar, depression of the immune system, increased thirst, increased hunger, muscle loss, panting, a pot belly, poor skin and many others.
In addition to drugs, cortisol can be made in excess by the body as well. The most common way this occurs in dogs is from a small tumor in the brain, specifically on the pituitary gland that tells the adrenal glands to make cortisol. In a smaller percentage of dogs there is a tumor on the adrenal gland that is producing the cortisol excessively even when no more is needed. Cushing’s usually affects older dogs, therefore often the clinical signs can be confused with normal aging changes, as they can be slowly progressive. You may notice some of the following signs at home.
That Insatiable Appetite Might be More Than You Think
Have you noticed your dog being ravenous lately? Drinking more water than normal? Asking to go outside more frequently? Are they having urinary accidents in the house? Do they seem more lethargic? Or are they having skin issues? These are some of the signs of Cushing’s disease. The Internal Medicine department at MissionVet Specialty & Emergency could be able to help!
Is my dog in pain with Cushing’s?
Cushing’s disease doesn’t cause pain in dogs in the traditional sense of the word. It isn’t like a torn ACL in dogs or intervertebral disc disease (IVDD) in dogs. However, I would argue that it can negatively impact quality of life. Hear me out.
Dogs with uncontrolled Cushing’s disease are thirsty all the time and need to urinate frequently. Sometimes they may have accidents in the house if they can’t make it outside in time. That can be hard on a dog’s dignity. It may also be more difficult for them to rest peacefully since they are prone to panting and pacing.
We can’t know for sure the emotional impact those changes have on a dog, and I’ve seen hundreds of “untreated” Cushing’s patients over the years who seemed fine. However, living with symptoms of Cushing’s is not ideal for the dog nor their family. The good news, though, is that treating your dog’s Cushing’s disease will help get those symptoms under control. This can greatly improve your dog’s quality of life.
Cushings Disease in Dogs: Natural Treatment
Is your middle-aged or senior dog drinking and urinating more than usual? Does your dog have a pot-bellied appearance? These are just a few signs of Cushing’s disease in dogs (also known as hyperadrenocorticism). Integrative veterinarian Dr. Julie Buzby shares symptoms, diagnosis, medications, and other treatment options for Cushing’s disease in dogs.
“Have you ever heard of Cushing’s disease in dogs?” I asked my new veterinary client, the loving parent of a 15-year-old Labrador Retriever, Jake. As I was rubbing her senior dog’s pot belly, I sensed my client’s fear and worry. I had just met Jake forty minutes prior and diagnosed two other conditions—hip dysplasia and laryngeal paralysis in dogs.
Now, I suspected her canine companion had Cushing’s disease, which is also known as hyperadrenocorticism. As a veterinarian, it’s a medical condition that I’ve diagnosed often since it’s fairly common in senior dogs—who make up the majority of the patients in my practice.
If your dog has been diagnosed with Cushing’s, you may have questions and concerns much like my client. Along with your veterinarian’s recommendations, please use this ultimate guide to Cushing’s disease to help you help your dog have the best quality of life possible.