Pituitary Tumor in Dogs

If your dog has a pituitary tumor, he could suffer from serious complications. While most pituitary tumors in dogs aren't cancerous, that doesn't mean they can't drastically affect the function of your dog's pituitary gland and cause very adverse complications. Read on to learn more about canine pituitary tumor.

What Your Dog's Pituitary Gland Is and What It Does

Your dog's pituitary gland is a vital part of his endocrine system. Your dog's endocrine system produces the hormones that help regulate his metabolism. A number of glands and organs help make up the canine endocrine system; the pituitary gland is just one. The pituitary gland helps to regulate hormone production by the other glands of the endocrine system. 

When a tumor grows on or near your dog's pituitary gland, it can affect the pituitary's ability to regulate hormone production in your dog's body. This can affect everything from his metabolism, to his sexual function, to his ability to sleep at night and be awake during the day. Diabetes, vision problems and serious hormonal imbalances can occur.

Causes of Pituitary Tumor in Dogs

Pituitary tumor is often the result of genetic predisposition in dogs. German Shepherds, Boston Terriers, Boxers and Dachshunds seem to get them more often than other breeds. But, in many cases, vets don't really understand why pituitary tumors develop, or why some dogs develop benign tumors while others are stricken with cancerous ones.

Symptoms of a Canine Pituitary Tumor

A tumor on or near your dog's pituitary gland can put pressure on the gland itself and on the surrounding structures of the brain. Cushings Disease, a metabolic condition in which the adrenal gland produces too much adrenal hormone, can be the result of a pituitary tumor. Symptoms can include:

  • Increased appetite and increased thirst
  • Hair loss
  • Thinning of the skin
  • Abdominal muscle atrophy, which can cause your dog to look fat, as if he has a pot-belly
  • Panting
  • Infertility and decreased sex drive
  • Urinary infections that keep coming back even after they are treated

Diagnosing and Treating Canine Pituitary Tumor

Your vet can find and identify a pituitary tumor through the use of X-rays, ultrasounds, MRIs or CT scans. It may be difficult for your vet to determine if the tumor is cancerous by doing a biopsy, since pituitary tumors are usually impossible to access surgically. Most tumors are benign, however, and, if your dog's tumor doesn't spread, your vet will diagnose benign pituitary tumor by process of elimination. 

Because there is no surgical procedure for removing these tumors, your dog will have to take medication to manage his symptoms. Drugs, such as lysoden, help decrease adrenal function by killing off some of the adrenal gland. Your dog will need to be carefully monitored during treatment with this drug, to make sure it is working properly. If the dose is too high, it could harm him, and if it's too low, it might not be effective. 

Treatment usually lasts four to six months, though some dogs might relapse and need further treatment later on. Cushings disease can be fatal, so you'll need to keep an eye on your dog for recurring symptoms. If your dog's tumor is cancerous, chemotherapy may be able to help.