Canine Cushing's Disease: A Common Disease in Older Dogs

Canine Cushing's Disease

Canine Cushing's disease (hyperadrenocorticism) affects the pituitary and causes it to produce too much glucocorticoid. Canine Cushing's disease is common in older dogs and has a wide range of symptoms. Canine Cushing's disease symptoms appear gradually and many owners mistake them for signs of old age. One of the most common symptoms of Canine Cushing's disease is increased consumption of water and resultant increased urination. Housebroken animals may begin to have indoor accidents because of increased water consumption. An increase in appetite may accompany canine Cushing's. Dogs may begin stealing food, begging continuously, or showing other signs of increased appetite. Canine Cushing's disease can cause abdominal swelling in dogs. Your dog may appear potbellied due to a weakening of abdominal muscles caused by canine Cushing's. Hair loss and thinning of skin is also very common in Cushing's dogs. Hair loss begins in heavy-wear areas such as the elbows, and progresses over the flanks and abdomen until hair remains only on the head and tail. Thin skin leads to ease of injury and difficulty healing. There are two forms of Canine Cushing's disease. The first is pituitary dependent hyperadrenocorticism, or PDH. In this form of Canine Cushing's disease the pituitary produces too much of the hormone ACTH, usually due to a pituitary tumor. PDH accounts for 80% of Canine Cushing's disease cases. The second form is adrenal-based hyperadrenocorticism, or ADH. This type of Canine Cushing's disease is usually caused by an adrenal tumor, which stimulates the adrenal gland to produce too many glucocorticoids. Any dog suspected of having Canine Cushing's disease should be diagnosed with a complete blood count (CBC), blood chemistry panel, and urinalysis. Canine Cushing's disease is difficult to diagnose and your vet may want to perform a range of tests, including an abdominal ultrasound or an ACTH stimulation test. Canine Cushing's disease can sometimes be treated surgically to remove the offending tumor. If surgery isn't possible, medications prescribed by your vet can increase your dog's length and enjoyment of life. With proper care, a dog suffering from Canine Cushing's disease can live happily for years.