Surgical Treatment for Canine Cushings Disease

Canine Cushing's disease is a common but treatable condition, affecting primarily middle aged dogs and older. Cushing's disease causes an imbalance of blood cortisol, the hormone that is responsible for regulating a number of body processes. Unfortunately, the fact that Cushing's disease strikes primarily in old dogs and that its symptoms mimic and resemble those of the aging process, generally means that diagnosis is often difficult or delayed. However, once you and your veterinarian have properly diagnosed your pet's case, you can begin to discuss treatment options for this curable disease.

Surgical Treatment

There are different types of Cushing's disease, each with its own preferred form of treatment. The disease most often develops as a result of a tumor or unusual growth on either the pituitary gland or on one of the adrenal glands. The size and malignancy of the tumor varies from case to case, but also tends to differ predictably according to which gland is affected.

Adrenal gland Cushing's disease is curable through surgery. Because the tumors in these cases tend to be larger, and because there are multiple adrenal glands and the odds of the remaining gland developing a similar tumor are slim, many veterinarians recommend surgery to treat Cushing's disease when it is based in the adrenal area.

Treatment Procedure and Other Considerations

Removing an adrenal gland is a risky and invasive procedure. The surgery itself will likely require several days of hospital stay and a lengthy recovery period. As with all surgeries, there is a certain risk associated with the procedure itself. Moreover, roughly half of all adrenal tumors are malignant. Due to the fact that a majority of Cushing's cases are discovered relatively late, there is a significant risk that your pet's tumor has already metastasized and spread to other parts of the body. Furthermore, elderly dogs suffer a higher risk of infection and other complications during surgery. All of these factors may contribute to your decision regarding treatment.

In cases in which the tumor has been identified as benign and the patient as fit for surgery, excision of the adrenal gland itself has a highly positive prognosis.

Because Cushing's disease often causes delayed healing and a slow recovery time, most veterinarians will begin to address the symptoms of the disease with drug treatments or other methods before conducting the surgery itself.

Non-Surgical Alternatives

If your pet has a pituitary tumor, which tends to be minuscule and impossible to remove surgically, or if you and your veterinarian determine that surgery for your pet's adrenal tumor is not an appropriate course of action, there are a variety of non-surgery treatment methods for canine Cushing's disease. These include radiation and chemotherapy, drug treatments and more. Furthermore, in some cases the treatment itself may pose a greater danger than the disease. Many pet owners choose to do what they can to control the symptoms and progression of Cushing's disease, without actually addressing the disease itself. As with all diseases and treatments, your goal should be your pet's livelihood and comfort.