This past year two of my friends' dogs' were diagnosed with Cushing's disease. Sadly, one friend lost her dog to the disease after just a few months. My other friend is working to manage Cushing's disease in her dog, helping her dog get through it while maintaining as much quality of life for him as possible. Cushing's Disease in dogs isn't an automatic death sentence, there are treatments available. However, it's not that simple and there doesn't appear to be an actual "cure". 

Treatment options depend on which type of Cushing's disease a dog has. Treatment for Cushing's in most cases relies on providing dogs with medication to control the symptoms of the disease, rather than providing an actual cure.

Watching my friends go through the anguish of Cushing's disease with their dogs really rattled me. Both friends' dogs' were senior dogs and my Husky, Icy, is 13 years old. So at Icy's next Veterinary visit I asked about Cushing's and expressed my concern about it.

Cushing's Disease in Dogs
My precious dog Icy. I always worry about her health!

Our Vet explained what Cushing's disease was, and that there are two main different types of Cushing's disease that dogs get. She discussed the symptoms of Cushing's disease in dogs. She also informed me that it typically effects middle aged and senior dogs.

At my request, our Veterinarian did a full blood panel on Icy. I was relieved when she reported back several days later, that nothing in Icy's bloodwork indicated she might have Cushing's. Whew! When it comes to my girl Icy, I am a serious worry-wart! I take no chances when it comes to her health. 

I've learned a lot about Cushing's disease in dogs, and I want to share that information with you here. So let's jump in.

What Is Cushing's Disease In Dogs?

Cushing's disease in dogs, also known as Hyperadrenocorticism, is due to the overproduction of the cortisol hormone, which is produced by the adrenal glands. There are two types of Cushing's disease in dogs.

Two Main Types of Cushing's Disease Effect Dogs

There are two main types of Cushing's disease in dogs.  Pituitary-Dependent Cushing's disease and Adrenal-Dependent Cushing's disease. 

Pituitary-dependent Cushing's disease 

Occurs when there is a tumor in the dog's pituitary gland, a pea sized gland at the base of the brain. The tumor causes a dog's body to produce excess amounts of Cortisol. Medication can be prescribed to inhibit the production of cortisol.

Adrenal-dependent Cushing's disease 

Is caused by a tumor on one of the dog's adrenal glands, that causes the dog's body to produce excess amounts of Cortisol. In the case of Adrenal-dependent Cushing's disease you can surgically remove the tumor on the affected adrenal gland, but if the tumor has spread this surgery may not be feasible for your dog. If surgery can't be performed, medication to control the symptoms may be the best treatment option for the dog.

It is possible to remove the adrenal tumor if the Cushing's disease is adrenal-dependent and the tumor hasn't spread. However, it may not cure the disease. But it can usually extend the dog's life by a year or more. The surgery is complex and there are risks. Some dog owners, together with their Veterinarian, choose to treat with medication instead.

Symptoms of Cushing's Disease in Dogs

The below symptoms may mean that your dog is suffering from Cushing's disease:

Symptoms of Cushing's Disease in Dogs
Symptoms of Cushing's Disease in Dogs

If you see these typical Cushing's symptoms in your dog, contact your Veterinarian right away and bring your dog in for an exam.

How is Cushing's Disease diagnosed in dogs?

To provide a diagnosis of Cushing's disease in your dog, your Vet will likely start with the following:

> Bloodwork

> Urinalysis to measure amounts of Cortisol in the urine

> Abdominal Ultrasound to see if adrenal gland enlargement or any tumors are present

Cushing's disease is something that will stay keenly on my radar. I'll watch carefully for any of the potential symptoms of Cushing's in my dog.


You can find more detailed information about Cushing's disease in dogs on PetMd's web site 

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Tail Wag Wisdom said...

Great information about cushings disease for dogs. I had heard about it, but wasn't aware about all the details. This is good info to know. I'm super happy to know that Icy is healthy and free of the disease. That is a huge relief! I'm so sorry to hear about your friend who lost her pup to the disease. I really hope the medication helps your other friend's dog in managing the disease. I'm sharing to help folks understand cushings a bit more. Thanks!

Kamira G said...

I had a friend who's dog lived with Cushing's too. He was also a diabetic dog but lived many years with the disease. He was such a fighter and strong little dog. With attentive care and regular vet visits and monitoring medications, he was able to live a full life. Thanks for sharing this information. It's a condition that' s not widely known like other conditions.

Anonymous said...

I have heard so much chatter about Cushings so it is nice to have an explanation from a real dog person (as opposed to a 'pet med' site). It is definitely something to be aware of.

Marjorie at Dash Kitten

Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them said...

Kamira, I'm so happy to see that you knew a pup who lived for years managing Cushing's! Thank you so much for sharing that.

Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them said...

I had heard a lot about it too, Marjorie, and then I had two friends that lived it. I wanted to learn more about it for my own dog because it scared me so much! Once I learned more, I felt I should share it to help another Dog Mom that might need the info. Thanks so much for your kind words, friend! ❤️my friend!

Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them said...

Thanks Terri, I didn't know much about Cushing's at first either, I was just happy to know that it isn't an automatic death sentence and that there are medications that can help dogs with the disease!

LaylasWoof said...

Thanks so much for this information as I was reading up aboutit yesterday in my Dr Pitcairn book as I worry about Layla, so reading your blog today has answered a lot of questions I had especially as she is 16+ years old

FiveSibesMom said...

Very important information, Cathy, and well explained. I always worried about Cushings, as I've heard many stories of dogs being diagnosed with it. I did not realize that there were two types. I am so thankful that none of mine, nor any dog pals ever had it. Sharing this very informative post.

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