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What is 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 Fort Worth 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?

If your dog has a pituitary tumor, which causes an overproduction of cortisol in their systems, they may develop Dependent Cushing's disease or hyperadrenocorticism. This dangerous condition raises your dog's chances of developing a variety of illnesses and disorders.

Is Cushing's Disease fatal in dogs?

Cushing's disease (hyperadrenocorticism) is a significant health disorder that arises in dogs when the adrenal glands overproduce cortisol (cortisol). Excess cortisol can put a dog at danger for a variety of serious ailments and illnesses, ranging from renal damage to diabetes, and can be fatal.

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

Dogs with Cushing's disease are more likely to develop diabetes, high blood pressure, blood clots, and kidney damage.

Does Cushing's cause breathing problems in dogs?

Blood clots that obstruct the lungs' veins, known as thromboembolism, can make breathing difficult. Cushing's disease is more common in dogs, and the disorder can lead to life-threatening heart and lung difficulties.

Symptoms & Complications of Cushing’s Disease

Cushing's symptoms can be subtle, so consult your doctor as soon as you notice any of them. Cushing's disease increases the risk of renal damage, hypertension, blood clots, and diabetes in dogs. Your dog may exhibit any of the following symptoms if he or she has 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?

Your veterinarian will only be able to diagnose Cushing's disease through blood tests. A urinalysis, urine culture, adrenal function tests (low dose and high dose dexamethasone suppression test, and potentially ACTH stimulation test), full chemistry panel, and complete blood panel may be used to determine the cause of your dog's symptoms.

At Harris Parkway Animal Hospital in Fort Worth, 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.

Although ultrasonography can be used to rule out other disorders that may be causing your dog's symptoms, it is more beneficial in aiding in the diagnosis of Cushing's disease. Other conditions that may induce comparable symptoms include spleen or liver tumors, bladder stones, gallbladder disease, gastrointestinal sickness, 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.

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

Cushing's disease symptoms can be decreased with close monitoring and long-term treatment. When used correctly, Cushing's disease medication can be quite helpful in treating the illness. The improper dose, on the other hand, can produce mild to severe adverse 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 Harris Parkway Animal Hospital in Fort Worth, our vets are here to help your pet feel better. Contact us today to make an appointment for your dog. 

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Harris Parkway Animal Hospital is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Fort Worth companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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