What is Cushings Syndrome vs Cushings Disease?

While they have similar symptoms, Cushing's Disease and Cushings Syndrome differ slightly. Both are a hormone disorder where too much hydrocortisone is found in a dog's bloodstream.

Cushing's has two main causes:

Dogs may have the disease for more than a year before symptoms develop. The earlier you seek veterinary care, the better off your dog will be. Dogs suffering from Cushing's often develop congestive heart failure, diabetes and hypertension. Other issues involve a weakened immune system leading to infections.

Dogs Likely to Develop Cushing's

The ailment is most prevalent in older dogs, usually discovered after the age of six. Though the condition has shown up in dogs as young as two. Gender doesn't seem to be a factor. Certain breeds do seem to be more susceptible to Cushing's. They include:

  • Boston Terriers

  • Boxers

  • Dachshunds

  • Miniature Poodles

  • Miniature Schnauzers

  • Yorkshire Terriers

Understanding the Difference Between Cushing's Syndrome and Cushing's Disease

Symptoms for Cushing's Disease and Syndrome are similar. The difference involves the underlying cause. Dogs with Cushing's Disease have one underlying causes, usually the tumor of the pituitary gland.

Dogs with Cushing's Syndrome may have been given too many corticosteroids or have one or more tumors in their adrenal or pituitary glands.

Symptoms of Cushing's Syndrome and Cushing's Disease

Symptoms for the disease and syndrome are similar. Most pet owners find their dog's appetite and thirst levels increase. The abdomen swells creating a potbellied appearance making a pet owner think their pet is simply gaining weight.

Hair loss is also common. Up to 90 percent of all dogs with Cushing's disease develop hair loss. The condition of the skin also changes. Lesions may appear and take longer to heal.

Testing for Cushing's

Most pet owners take their dog to the vet when the hair loss occurs. Your vet is likely to do an ACTH Stimulation test, Low Dose Dexamethasone Suppression test or Urine Cortisol test.

During an ACTH Stimulation test, a sample of blood is drawn as a control. Then the veterinarian injects a dose of ACTH hormones into the dog and after waiting an hour or two draws a second sample of blood to check cortisol levels. Dogs with Cushing's will have higher levels of ACTH in their blood stream.

The Low Dose Dexamethasone Suppression test is the most successful test available for diagnosing Cushing's. The dog fasts overnight and a blood sample is drawn. Synthetic glucocorticoids are injected and then blood is drawn again four and eight hours later. Dogs with Cushing's will drastically increase glucocorticoid production, while healthy dogs' will stop production.

The Urine Cortisol test is often done to pre-screen for Cushing's. It isn't a reliable method for positively determining Cushing's, but most vets use it to rule out the possibility of other diseases. If the urine sample shows normal levels of cortisol, Cushing's is ruled out.

Treatment Plans for Cushing's Syndrome and Cushing's Disease

If tumors are discovered in the adrenal glands, surgery is the best treatment. With pituitary tumors, they grow slowly and are small so most veterinarian's suggest radiation. Prescription medications that suppress hormone production are also useful.