Cushings Disease Dog Care

Cushings disease dog care requires a lifelong commitment from the dog's owner to ensure the healthiest and most pain free life possible for the dog. Cushing's disease occurs when the dog's body produces an excess of the hormone cortisol, which acts as a natural steroid in dogs It is vital in helping your dog cope with stress and it helps regulate things such as weight, skin condition and other health indicators. There are three different types of Cushing's disease and each has it own, separate treatment.

Pituitary-Dependent Cushing's Disease

Pituitary-dependent Cushing's is the more common of the three. It occurs when hormones from the pituitary gland overstimulates the adrenal glands to produce excess cortisol. Selegiline is an FDA approved medication for the treatment of pituitary-dependent Cushing's disease only. It has been used safely for years and has few side effects.

Adrenal-Dependent Cushing's Disease

Adrenal-dependent Cushing's is more rare. It is caused by a tumor on the adrenal gland. Roughly 50% of these tumors are malignant and spread to the liver and the lungs. If this form of Cushing's disease is found at its earliest stages and the dog is in otherwise good health, your veterinarian may recommend surgery to remove the tumor. This will effect an immediate cure. However, most dogs diagnosed are elderly and their condition is too deteriorated to withstand surgery. Vetoryl capsules are a fairly new treatment protocol and requires close monitoring by the owner and the veterinarian. If the dog is pregnant, has liver or kidney disease or is taking heart medication, he's not a good candidate for Vetoryl. Another option that works for both pituitary-dependent and adrenal-based Cushing's disease is the drug mitotane. This is a powerful cancer drug dispensed under the trade name of Lysodren for use in human patients. When you start this drug, your dog will have to return to the veterinarian at regular intervals for blood work to ensure that the adrenal gland is functioning properly.

Iatrogenic (or Veterinary-Induced) Dog Cushing's Disease

Iatrogenic Cushing's is caused by humans administering glucocorticoid drugs such as hydrocortisone or prednisolone to treat allergies and other chronic conditions. The glucocorticoids cause the dog's adrenal glands to atrophy and cease functioning. Iatrogenic is the easiest of the three to cure. All it requires is the gradual tapering off of the glucocorticoid drugs that caused it in the first place. Most dogs will have a complete recovery once they are weaned off of the drugs.

Symptoms of Dog Cushings Disease

The symptoms of Cushing's disease are varied and not every symptom appears in every dog. Some of the more common symptoms are:

  • Lethargy

  • Weight loss

  • Weight gain

  • Bloated abdomen

  • Excessive thirst

  • Excessive urination

  • Excessive hunger

  • Excessive panting

  • Dry skin & coat

  • Thinning, fragile skin

  • Susceptibility to infections

  • Seizures

  • Diabetes

  • Pancreatitis

If you see any of these symptoms in your dog, either alone or in conjunction with any other, get your dog to the veterinarian as soon as possible. The earlier the disease is caught, the better the prognosis.