Cushing’s disease occurs most frequently in middle aged to older dogs, and is the result of an overproduction of the hormone cortisol. Cortisol is a highly beneficial hormone, produced by the adrenal gland in response to stress. For a dog, that stress can be something as simple as a trip to the vet’s office.
Under normal circumstances, a low level of cortisol is released triggering bodily changes that support the dog’s metabolism and immune system through the period of perceived crisis. Once balance is restored, cortisol levels drop naturally. Chronically elevated levels of cortisol can be caused by a malfunctioning pituitary, or a tumor on the adrenal gland. Whatever the cause, chronically elevated levels negatively impact a dogs’ health.
Certain small dog breeds like Dachshunds, Miniature Poodles and Boston Terriers, to name a few, are more prone to Cushing’s as they age. But larger breeds, especially larger females, are also susceptible. Because Cushing’s most often strikes older pets, owners sometimes assume the symptoms they’re witnessing are a natural part of the aging process. They’re not!
Symptoms of Cushing’s Disease include:
- Excessive thirst
- Excessive urination
- Excessive increase in appetite
- Heat intolerance
- Rapid breathing
- “Pot belly” or rounded abdomen
- Fat deposits along the torso
- Alopecia and a dull, flakey coat
- Skin thinning with easy injury and/or bruising
- Elevated cholesterol
As with any change in behavior or illness, an early diagnosis and intervention is important. Since there is no single definitive test for Cushing’s, a diagnosis may require a combination of bloodwork and imaging. Treatment depends on the underlying cause. Tumors are treated using radiation, surgery, or a combination of the two. Pharmaceuticals are also used to restore and maintain proper levels and balance.
Although it is very uncommon for feline Cushing’s to occur, when it does, the patient is most often an older female with insulin-resistant diabetes. Treatment options for cats are very limited with a guarded prognosis.
If you’re seeing changes in your pet’s appearance and/or behavior, make an appointment to have them evaluated by your veterinarian. While aging is a natural process, it can be accompanied by the onset of diseases than can negatively impact your pets’ quality of life. Often, a diagnosis and subsequent treatment can restore harmony for both you and your pet! Call us today at (732) 671-3110.