Life Expectancy for Dogs with Canine Cushings Disease

Discover the average life expectancy for dogs with canine Cushing's disease. While there is no exact life span, it is important to note that the form of Cushing's disease dictates the eventual outcome. Cushing's Disease has no cure, so control of the disease and symptoms is crucial. Early identification of Cushing's disease is essential. The sooner treatment begins, the better prognosis for the dog.

Canine Cushing's Disease

Cushing's disease, or hyperadrenocorticism, typically affects older dogs. It's a disease where the adrenal gland triggers an overproduction of cortisol. Symptoms include:

  • Excessive panting
  • Excessive thirst and hunger
  • Hair loss
  • Increased urine
  • Lethargy
  • Muscle weakness
  • Stiff muscles
  • Thinning of the dog's skin
  • Weight gain/pot-bellied appearance

Typically you only see Cushing's disease in dogs older than eight years of age. It's also more prevalent in certain breeds like Boxers, Dachshunds, Poodles and Terriers. Cushing's disease is also more prevalent in females.

Causes of Canine Cushing's Disease

There seem to be three main causes of Cushing's disease in dogs.

  • Tumor or disease of the adrenal gland
  • Disease of the pituitary gland
  • Overuse of corticosteroid medications

Testing to determine the cause dictates the proper treatment. The testing will involve blood work to test hormone and blood chemistry levels. Urine tests are also ordered because half of all dogs with hyperadrenocorticism test positive for urinary tract infections.

Treatment for Cushing's Disease

Treatment for canine Cushing's disease involves regulating the hormones produced by the adrenal gland. Medications, usually Lysodren/Mitotane or Anipryl/Selegiline HCI, help reduce the overproduction of adrenal hormones.

Lysodren requires twice daily dosages and regular blood tests to monitor hormone levels. The common problem with Lysodren is that hormone levels drop too low, leading to Addisonian crisis. Addisonian crisis is a serious shock-like state usually resulting from an imbalance of sodium and potassium levels.

If Anipryl is used to treat Cushing's disease in dogs, expect an oral pill given daily. Blood tests are also required to monitor the drug's effectiveness. The risk of Addisonian crisis is removed, but the medication is far more expensive and not as effective.

Tumors may need to be removed surgically and chemotherapy and radiation treatments may also be effective. If the Cushing's disease is the result of overuse of corticosteroids, the dog must be weaned off the medications gradually.

Once on medications, expect repeat blood tests to be performed every three to six months. In the meantime, it's important to monitor your dog for symptoms. If any symptoms of Cushing's disease appear, talk to your vet. The medication levels will need to be adjusted.

Average Life Expectancy

The average life expectancy for dogs with Cushing's disease depends on where the issue originated. If the adrenal gland was the cause, the life expectancy tends to be about three years. Dogs with pituitary gland issues have a life expectancy of around two years. The younger the dog is when the disease is discovered, the better the life expectancy.

Other health issues, particularly diabetes and infection, can reduce a dog's life expectancy. Others like pituitary macro tumor syndrome (tumor spreads from the pituitary gland into the brain) and pulmonary thromboembolism (blood clot in the lungs), appear shortly after treatment begins. Owners must decide if it's better to humanely euthanize their dog when these other ailments present themselves.