Rarely, we turn to a surgical cure but generally medicine is used to control their cortisol levels.
The condition mostly affects middle-aged and older dogs, and the warning signs may be harder to spot in the beginning.
You might notice your dog:
- Is thirstier than usual
- Seems hungrier
- Pees more often; housebroken dogs may have indoor accidents.
- Loses hair or it seems slow to grow
- Gets a pot belly
- Has thinning skin
- Seems very tired and inactive
- Pants a lot
- Gets skin infections
Types of Cushing’s Syndrome:
- Pituitary dependent. This form is the most common, affecting about 80% to 90% of the animals who have Cushing’s. It happens when there’s a tumor in a pea-sized gland at the base of the brain, called the pituitary.
- Adrenal dependent. This type comes from a tumor in one of the glands that sit on top of the kidneys, called adrenal glands. About 15% of diagnosed dogs will have this type.
Another kind, called iatrogenic Cushing’s syndrome, happens after a dog has taken steroids for a long time.
Getting Your Dog Diagnosed
There’s no method that’s 100% accurate for diagnosing Cushing’s. So the vet will do a few tests to see what may be causing your pet’s symptoms and to rule out other health problems.
Your vet will start by testing your dog’s blood and urine. These exams can detect diluted urine, urinary tract infections, or problems with a group of enzymes mostly found in the liver and bones called alkaline phosphatase. All of these are common in animals with Cushing’s. If the results show signs of the condition, your vet will follow up with hormone screening tests, such as:
- ACTH stimulation test. It measures how well the adrenal glands work in response to a hormone called ACTH that usually prompts them to make cortisol. The vet will take blood samples before and after your dog gets a shot of ACTH to see how the hormone affected them.
- Low dose dexamethasone suppression (LDDS) test looks at how your dog’s body works with a man-made version of cortisol, called dexamethasone. Blood samples before and after they gets a shot of the hormone help the vet see what’s going on.
If it seems like your pup could have Cushing’s, your vet might want to do an ultrasound scan of his belly. This imaging test will help them see if there’s a tumor on the adrenal glands. That could affect the kind of treatment they need.
If your pet has iatrogenic Cushing’s syndrome, your vet can try to gradually stop giving them steroids. But the original condition they were treating will probably come back.