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Cushing's Disease, also known as hyperadrenocorticism, is a condition resulting from excessive hormonal secretion from the adrenal glands. Adrenal hormones in normal amounts are necessary for life but in excess, is detrimental for the body. Cushing’s disease occurs in middle-aged to older dogs and unfortunately, its symptoms can be confused with what people sometimes call “normal aging”. Most dogs will start urinating in the house, drinking more water, losing hair, gaining weight and showing weakness or lack of energy. If left untreated, Cushing’s can lead to diabetes, heart failure, liver failure, kidney failure, hypothyroidism and infections of the bladder, skin, ears and gums. It can affect all dogs but certain breeds such as Beagle, Boston Terrier, Boxer, Dachshund and Poodle are more prone to develop it.
The most common cause of Cushing's Disease is an overgrowth of the pituitary gland in the brain. Pituitary Dependent Hyperadrenocorticism (PDH). Cushing's can also be caused by a tumor in the adrenal glands, which are located in the abdomen next to the kidneys (Adrenal Dependent Hyperadrenocorticism).Pituitary Cushing's disease cannot be cured, but the treatments available can prolong your pet's quality of life and life span. If an adrenal tumor is causing the disease, surgery may be indicated.
Cushing’s disease can be diagnosed at your veterinarian’s office. There are three tests to diagnose Cushing’s: ACTH Stimulation Test, Low Dose Dexamethasone Suppression (LDDS) Test and the High Dose Dexamethasone Suppression (HDDS) Test. The ACTH stimulatin test and the LDDS test are used to diagnose the disease itself. The HDDS test is used to differentiate whether Cushing's Disease is caused by the adrenal or pituitary gland.
There are several drugs available to treat Cushing’s disease: Trilostane (Vetoryl®), Lysodren, Ketoconazole, and Anipryl®. On my personal experience, the best results have been obtained with trilostane.
Nydia Melissa Perez, DVM