Dog Health: Cushings

Dog | Cushings

An Introduction to Cushings

Erin Coomer – Veterinarian (July 2013)

Is also known as Hyperadrenocorticism.

Cushings disease is one of the most commonly diagnosed endocrine (hormone) diseases that we see in dogs. 

The pathophysiology of this disease is complicated, because multiple organs and hormones are involved.  To understand it, an appreciation of the basic anatomy and physiology of a healthy dog is needed:

The pituitary gland is a small organ that sits at the base of the brain. 

The adrenal glands are two small organs that sit in the abdomen, close to the kidneys.  They are responsible for producing cortisone, a naturally occurring steroid (amongst other things).

The pituitary gland can detect when the body has decreasing levels of steroid.  It then produces a hormone called ACTH. 

ACTH acts to stimulate the adrenal glands, and cortisone is released when the body needs it. 

Causes of Cushings

The majority of dogs suffering from Cushings disease have a small tumour (often benign) of the pituitary gland.  This causes too much ACTH to be produced.  And subsequently, the adrenal glands become over stimulated and release too much steroid.

A small percentage of dogs with Cushings Disease have a tumour involving one of the...
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Symptoms of Cushings

Excessive amounts of steroid in the body can cause numerous different symptoms to develop.  Cushings disease is a chronic disease, so symptoms may come on slowly and appear subtle initially.

Normally middle age to older dogs are affected.

The most common clinical signs reported by owners are:

Drinking more water

Urinating more

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Treatment of Cushings


If you are concerned that your dog may have Cushings disease, make an appointment for him/her to be examined by your Veterinarian. 

The Vet will conduct a thorough physical examination and may suggest some of the following blood tests or diagnostic tests:

Serum Biochemistry Panel, Complete Blood Count (CBC) and Urinalysis

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