What is it?
Hyperadrenocorticism (more commonly known as Cushing’s disease) is an overproduction of cortisol hormone. At normal levels, cortisol helps in response to stress and regulate the immune system. Cushing’s disease is one of the most common endocrine diseases in dogs.
Some common symptoms include:
- Increased thirst
- Increased urination
- Increased hunger
- Increased panting
- Distended abdomen
- Loss of hair
- Muscle weakness and loss
- Darkening of skin
- Lack of energy
- Increased Urine Cortisol:Creatinine Ratios
Not all symptoms are present in every patient and some of these symptoms can also be seen with other diseases. Only your veterinarian can diagnose if your pet has Cushing’s.
There are multiple causes:
- Excessive administration of corticosteroid medications.
- Benign pituitary tumor (rarely can be malignant).
- Adrenal gland tumor (adrenal-dependent hyperadrenocorticism/ADH).
- Pituitary-dependent hyperadrenocorticism (PDH) – the body naturally produces too much hormone.
Your pet’s veterinarian will first take a detailed history and do a complete physical exam. Next step is to perform a full blood chemistry, complete blood count, and urinalysis. These diagnostics will help the veterinarian get a bigger picture of what is happening in the body. Further testing that can help diagnose specific causes include: urine cortisol/creatinine ratio then ACTH stimulation test or Dexamethasone suppression test. The stimulation and suppression tests help determine specifically how much cortisol is being produced and how best it should be treated.
- Excessive administration of corticosteroid medications: Treatment is to slowly wean off the medications according to your veterinarian’s instructions.
- Benign pituitary tumor and Adrenal gland tumor: First, a metastases check is performed to make sure the tumor has not spread to other organs. Then, a medication is given called trilostane (Vetoryl) to shrink the tumor. Once the tumor has decreased in size, it is removed.
- Pituitary-dependent hyperadrenocorticism: The pet is put on trilostane for life. This controls the production of cortisol.
Living with Cushing’s Disease
This is a serious disease, but it can be managed if pet owners and veterinarians work together. This is a lifelong diagnosis and does require medications to be given long term. Periodic monitoring will be required to make sure the treatment is going as it should and to help the veterinarians know if an adjustment needs to be made.
Common Diseases of Companion Animals By Alleice Summers
By: Jamie McAfee