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How Does Cushing's Disease in Dogs Affect My Furry Friend?

By John O'Keefe December 28, 2020

More than 63 million households own dogs as pets. That's a lot of furry friends being given love and support from their human companions. And if you've ever owned a pet, then you'd know how difficult it can be to watch them get sick. 

One disease that all animal lovers should be aware of is Cushing's disease in dogs. Also known as hyperadrenocorticism and hypercortisolism, Cushing's disease is a serious illness that affects many older dogs. If left untreated, the disease can cause major problems. 

If you own a dog, then it's important that you understand what the disease is and how it could affect your furry friend. So keep on reading and we'll walk you through everything you'll want to know.

What is Cushing's Disease in Dogs?

Cushing's disease takes place when a dog's adrenal gland secretes too much cortisol, which is a hormone related to stress. There are three kinds of Cushing's Disease.

First, there is pituitary-dependent Cushing’s disease. This takes place when a tumor in the pituitary gland at the base of the brain secretes too much of the hormone that leads to cortisol production. 

Usually, these tumors are small and benign. However, some dogs with pituitary tumors eventually have neurological symptoms as the tumor gets bigger. The majority of Cushing's disease cases are caused by pituitary tumors. 

The dog could also have an adrenal gland tumor. The adrenal gland is located right next to the kidneys and produces cortisol. 

Lastly, a dog might develop iatrogenic Cushing’s disease. This is caused by long-term or excessive use of steroids.  

What Does Cushing's Disease Do to Dogs?

Cushing's disease isn't necessarily going to be painful. However, it can lead to:

  • Kidney infections
  • Diabetes
  • Changes in the liver (vacuolar hepatopathy)
  • High blood pressure
  • Increased risk of clots
  • Bladder stones
  • Chronic skin and urinary tract infections

Protein loss and high blood pressure are relatively common with Cushing's disease and they can lead to kidney problems. While it's rare, dogs with Cushing's disease are also at risk for pulmonary thromboembolisms, which are fatal blood clots. 

What Are the Symptoms of Cushing's Disease?

There are a variety of symptoms that might show up in a dog who has Cushing's disease. Some of the most common symptoms of Cushing's disease are:

  • Increased urination
  • Hair loss or poor regrowth
  • Pot-belly appearance
  • Blackheads
  • Recurrent urinary infections
  • Lethargy
  • Seborrhea or oily skin
  • Drinking more water
  • Firm, irregular plaques on the skin (called calcinosis cutis)
  • Increased appetite
  • Panting
  • Thin skin
  • Recurrent skin infections
  • Sudden blindness
  • Urinary incontinence

If you notice any of these symptoms, then you should consult your veterinarian.

Getting Your Dog Diagnosed

There's no method for diagnosing Cushing's disease that's 100 percent accurate. Because of this, your vet is going to have to do a couple of tests to see what might be causing your dog's symptoms. 

They'll start by testing your dog's urine and blood. This is to rule out other diseases. 

The vet will then perform an ACTH stimulation test. This is to see how the adrenal glands respond to the ACTH hormone. 

Your dog will also be given an LDDS test to see how its body works with a synthetic version of cortisol. Your vet might also perform an ultrasound to see if there's a tumor on the adrenal glands. 

Treatment Options for Cushing's Disease

In order to remove the tumor, your vet might recommend getting surgery. Your vet might also prescribe medications to regulate your dog's hormones. 

These medications disrupt the production of cortisol. However, your dog is going to have to be closely monitored in order to make sure that the adrenal gland isn't impaired too much.

Depending on which medication your dog is prescribed, your dog's vet will make a plan for monitoring its bloodwork and reaching an appropriate dosage. This is going to vary depending on the dog. 

After the vet has figured out the proper dose for your dog, they'll perform an ACTH stimulation taste every few months. They'll also perform the test if you notice signs of Cushing’s disease starting to develop again.

As adrenal and pituitary tumors get worse, they'll require an increased dose of medication in order to control symptoms. 

Many pet owners find surgery to be dangerous and invasive, especially with elderly dogs. And prescription medications can cause additional side-effects. 

Instead, you can go with more natural options in order to give relief to your pet without the stress of medications or surgery. 

Full-spectrum CBD oil may be able to address Cushing's disease in a number of ways. It can do this by interacting with the hormonal imbalances and tumors that are causing the problem. Researchers have found that CBD could be a promising way to combat cancerous tumors. 

From a hormonal point of view, CBD may be able to relieve the imbalance that's causing the tumors in the first place. 

The Importance of Knowing About Cushing's Disease in Dogs 

Hopefully, after reading the above article, you now feel that you have a better understanding of Cushing's disease in dogs. As we can see, Cushing's disease is a serious illness that shouldn't be taken lightly.

However, by knowing what signs to look for, and by responding to those signs promptly, you should be able to help bring your furry friend back to good health.

If you're looking for the best CBD product to bring your dog relief, then make sure to take our quiz for more help today.


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