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Cushing's Disease in Dogs

Cushing's Disease in Dogs

Cushing's disease in dogs can be a serious threat to your pet's overall health and longevity. In today's blog, our Hattiesburg and Wiggins veterinary team explains the causes of this serious condition, as well as complications that can arise and treatments.

What causes Cushing's disease in dogs?

Your dog may develop Dependent Cushing's disease or hyperadrenocorticism if they have a tumor in their pituitary gland, which can result in an overproduction of cortisone in their bodies. Your dog may develop a number of additional diseases and conditions as a result of this serious condition.

What are some common complications of Cushing's disease in dogs?

Dogs with Cushing's disease face an increased risk of kidney damage, high blood pressure, blood clots, and diabetes.

Does Cushing's cause breathing problems in dogs?

Breathing issues may result from blood clots called thromboembolism that obstruct pulmonary blood vessels. Cushing's disease-affected dogs are more likely to develop it and experience potentially fatal heart and lung issues.

Symptoms & Complications of Cushing’s Disease

Since Cushing's disease symptoms are frequently hazy, it is crucial to consult your veterinarian as soon as you become aware of any of them. Dogs with Cushing's disease are more likely to develop diabetes, high blood pressure, blood clots, and kidney damage. Any of the following signs could be present in a canine with Cushing's disease:

  • Hair loss
  • Excessive thirst or drinking
  • Thinning of the skin
  • Muscle weakness
  • Potbelly
  • Panting
  • Lethargy
  • Increased appetite

How is Cushing's disease diagnosed in dogs?

Only blood tests can be used by your veterinarian to identify Cushing's disease. A urinalysis, urine culture, adrenal function tests (low dose and high dose dexamethasone suppression tests, and possibly ACTH stimulation tests), a full chemistry panel, and a full blood panel are just a few of the tests that may be used to determine the cause of your dog's symptoms.

At Holland Veterinary Hospitals in Hattiesburg and Wiggins, our vets are experienced in the diagnosis and treatment of a wide range of internal medicine conditions. We have access to state-of-the-art diagnostic imaging tools and treatment methods to identify and manage these issues.

In combination with a physical exam to look for signs of the disease, these tests can help your vet arrive at a diagnosis. Keep in mind that adrenal function tests can result in false positives when another disease with similar clinical signs is present.

Though an ultrasound may help diagnose Cushing’s disease, it’s more valuable in helping to rule out other conditions that could be causing your dog’s symptoms. Other diseases that may cause similar symptoms include tumors in the spleen or liver, bladder stones, gallbladder disease, gastrointestinal disease, and chronic inflammatory liver disease.

An ultrasound may not be able to detect adrenal enlargement, since patient movement or interference due to gas in the overlying intestine can influence test results. Most vets prefer magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) - an effective but expensive diagnostic imaging procedure that allows your vet to assess your dog’s adrenal glands.

What are the medications for Cushing's disease in dogs?

To treat your dog's Cushing disease, there are primarily two medications that can be used. The cells that produce cortisone in the adrenal glands can be destroyed by a form of the insecticide DDT (brand names include Lysodren® and mitotane). Trilostane, for example, aids in lowering the amount of cortisone the adrenal glands produce. By blocking particular steps in the cortisone production process, this achieves this goal. The symptoms of Cushing's disease can be effectively treated and controlled with trilostane and mitotane.

Discuss which may be the most effective treatment for your dog, and follow your vet's instructions diligently.

You must bring your dog to our clinic for an ACTH stimulation test after the mitotane induction phase, which "stimulates" the adrenal gland. To assist your veterinarian in determining the starting point for a mitotane maintenance dose, this test can be completed on an outpatient basis. The adrenal gland won't overreact to stimulation if the mitotane is functioning.

Though you won’t need an induction phase for trilostane, dogs often require small adjustments to trilostane doses early in treatment. Over their lifetime, routine monitoring of blood tests may indicate that other adjustments need to be made. How well clinical symptoms of Cushing’s disease can be controlled can also mean changes are required.

No matter which medication your vet feels is best for your pooch, your dog will likely be on it for the long term and may require periodic adjustments in doses. He or she will need to come in for ACTH stimulation tests as often as monthly until we can control the excessive production of cortisone. Regular testing will be needed.

Could there be any adverse reactions to my dog's treatment for Cushing's?

Cushing's disease symptoms can be reduced with careful monitoring and ongoing treatment. Medication for Cushing's disease can be very effective in treating the condition when given in the right dosage. The wrong dosage, however, may result in mild or serious side effects.

With blood test monitoring, it’s unusual for adverse reactions to appear. But if they do, they may include:

  • Lethargy or depression
  • General weakness
  • Stomach upset (Gastrointestinal symptoms - diarrhea or vomiting)
  • Picky eating or decreased appetite

If you spot any of these symptoms, discontinue the medication and call your veterinarian right away.

While medication costs and the need for frequent blood monitoring can make Cushing’s disease expensive to manage, diligent follow-up care and monitoring for adrenal function can make for a good prognosis.

Pets who do not receive adequate monitoring and follow-up often experience relapses and severe illness or death, as a result of complications.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Is your dog showing signs of Cushing's Disease? At Holland Veterinary Hospitals in Hattiesburg and Wiggins, we are here to help your pet feel better. Contact us today to make an appointment for your dog. 

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