Cushing's disease in dogs is also known as hyperadrenocorticism. It means that there is an increased level of glucocorticoid hormones in the dog's body. The increased levels of hormones are due to the overproduction of cortisol by the adrenal glands. This overproduction may be natural, or may be due to the administration of corticosteroids like prednisone. The treatment of the latter condition is very easy, as one just needs to cut down on the administration of corticosteroids. However, when it occurs because of natural causes, it is very difficult to cure.
Cushing's disease in dogs can be divided into three different types, depending on the causes. The types are Iatrogenic Cushing's Disease, adrenal-based hyperadrenocorticism, and pituitary-dependent hyperadrenocorticism. These types are explained in brief below.
1.Iatrogenic Cushing's Disease
This type of Cushing's disease is caused by frequent use of cortisol. When cortisol is used in excess, it causes the adrenal glands to halt its production in the body. This halt in the production of cortisol causes the adrenal glands to shrink in size. The treatment in case of excess use of cortisol includes slowly withdrawing the same. If one dramatically decreases the amount of cortisol, it may lead to a severe case of vomiting, diarrhea, vascular collapse, or even death.
This type is caused due to over-secretion of the ACTH hormone by the pituitary gland. The ACTH hormone stimulates the adrenal glands to produce more glucocorticoids. This over-secretion is due to a pituitary tumor. About 80% of the dogs are affected by pituitary-dependent hyperadrenocorticism.
An adrenal tumor causes over secretion of glucocorticoids that leads to development of Cushing's disease in dogs. About 20% of the dogs are affected by adrenal-based hyperadrenocorticism.
Age and Breed
Cushing's disease is generally seen affecting middle-aged to older dogs. Dogs that are around 6 to 7 years of age are at the maximum risk of contracting this disease. However, the range of getting affected is between 2 to 16 years. This disease can affect any of the dog breeds, but those that are more prone to it include the Beagle, Boston Terrier, German Shepherd, Golden Retriever, Labrador Retriever, Poodle, and Yorkshire Terrier. The breeds that are commonly affected by adrenal-based hyperadrenocorticism are the Toy Poodle, Dachshund, German Shepherd, Labrador Retriever, and a few Terrier dog breeds. The dogs which are generally affected by pituitary-dependent Cushing's disease include the Poodle, Beagle, German Shepherd, Boston Terrier, and Boxer.
Cushing's disease in dogs is a serious hormonal disorder. The symptoms are mostly similar to other dog illness symptoms. Most of the symptoms are similar to aging symptoms like hair loss, muscle weakness, uncontrollable bladder, etc. The other symptoms are as follows.
- Polyuria (excessive urination)
- Polydipsia (excessive thirst)
- Abdominal enlargement
- Hair loss
- Skin becomes thin and fragile
- Blackheads and clogged pores on skin
- Increase in skin pigmentation
- Calcium deposits causing hard lumps on the skin
- Enlarged liver
- Excessive panting
- Muscle weakness
- Muscle atrophy
- Intact females do not come in heat
- Intact males may show testicular atrophy
The treatment varies according to the form of the disease that affects the dog. In case of adrenal tumors, the vet may surgically remove the tumor. Pituitary-dependent hyperadrenocorticism is treated with medication. The vet may prescribe mitotane to treat it. This drug is given after meals and the side effects include anorexia, lethargy, vomiting, and depression. Dogs with Iatrogenic Cushing's disease are slowly weaned off the steroids and hence gradually recover from this condition. The vet will decide the correct prednisone doses that will help reduce the symptoms.
You need to help boost the immune system of the dog by providing it with the right diet. The diet for an affected dog should include high protein levels, and low fat, fiber, and purine levels. You need to feed the dog with natural meat, eggs, and vegetables. You should provide the dog with plenty of water and a potassium-rich diet. Supplement the diet with antioxidants like vitamin C, vitamin E, and selenium. This helps make the immune system of the dog stronger to fight against the disease.
The prognosis shows that adrenal surgery is mostly good. Dogs with a benign adrenal gland-based tumor have better life expectancy than those with a malignant tumor. The life expectancy of dogs who have undergone an adrenal surgery is about 36 months. Dogs with pituitary-dependent hyperadrenocorticism have a life expectancy of about 2 years after successful treatment. The overall life expectancy is more or less 20-30 months.
This was some information related to Cushing's disease in dogs. Depending on that particular dog's health, the vet may choose an appropriate treatment for the disease.
The information offered on this site is not to be used as a substitute for professional veterinary diagnosis or treatment. The reader is advised to consult with a veterinarian before taking any home remedies, supplements, or following any treatment advised by anyone on this site. A veterinarian will be able to provide the reader with advice that is safe and effective for an individual pet's specific needs, and diagnose a particular health problem based on the pet's medical history.