What’s all the talk about Cushings disease?

As our dog’s age there are a number of diseases that become more common. Cushings disease, also called Hyperadrenocorticism, or HyperA, is a relatively common disease of middle aged to older dogs. The development of the disease can be quite gradual and the signs can often be mistaken for ‘just getting older’. Diagnosis and treatment is very important as it means your pet can enjoy the best of life into their old age.

So what is Cushings disease?

It is caused by an excess of cortisol, a natural stress hormone. There are different forms of the disease, depending on the cause of the excess cortisol. In Pituitary dependent Cushings disease, a small benign tumour on the pituitary gland in the brain sends an excessive signal to the adrenal glands. They in turn pump out excessive cortisol. In Adrenal dependant Cushing’s disease, a tumour directly on the adrenal gland makes excess cortisol. These adrenal tumours can be either benign or malignant. In some cases, Cushings disease can even be due to excessive treatment with cortisone type drugs. These drugs are often used in allergic skin conditions or as a basic anti-inflammatory. They are great drugs but you pet should not be on them long term.

If your dog has Cushing’s disease you may notice:

  • Increased drinking and increased weeing
  • Loss of bladder control – he just might not be able to hold on any more
  • A potbellied appearance
  • A ravenous appetite
  • Fur loss or poor fur growth or regrowth after clipping
  • Persistent skin infection
  • Thin, dry skin
  • Loss of muscle in the hind leg
  • Lethargy
  • Excessive panting, more common in the bigger dogs

Cushings disease requires a combination of blood tests and ultrasound scans to diagnose. Once the diagnosis has been made a treatment strategy can be worked out. Your dog might not need any treatment at the moment. The disease is very rarely life threatening and if your dog is happy and the disease is not causing a problem for him or you, then no treatment may be necessary. However, it is important that you and your vet know your dog has this condition as it will have an impact on future health care decisions.

If your dog is struggling with the disease then there are good and successful treatment options, either medical and/or surgical, for you and your pet. Each patient is considered as a unique individual at Inner South Vet Centre and treatment is all about what is right for you and your dog.

If you think your dog might have Cushings disease make an appointment to discuss this with one of our veterinarians. This is a common condition that can be well managed and we would love to help you make sure your dog enjoys all of life’s pleasures as they age.