What is Cushing’s disease?
Cushing's disease, or hyperadrenocorticism to give it its proper name, is a condition where the body overproduces the cortisol steroid hormone. It's a fairly common condition in middle aged and older dogs.
Dogs normally need some steroids for their bodies to function properly and they are produced by the adrenal gland, which sits next to the kidney. The adrenal gland is sent messages to produce cortisol by the pituitary gland, which sits at the base of the brain. If a dog gets a growth on either of these glands, this can send hormone production into overdrive which leads to a number of symptoms.
The majority of Cushing’s cases are caused by a benign tumour on the pituitary gland. Tumours on the adrenal gland also cause this disease, but are less common. High level use of steroids, used to treat immune disorders or allergies, can also cause Cushing’s disease.
Symptoms of Cushing’s disease in dogs
Most owners will notice excess thirst and urination. One of the first signs owners often notice is that their dog suddenly begins needing to go out to the toilet in the middle of the night.
There can also be hair loss, weight gain, panting, skin changes, lowered immunity and abdominal swelling, which can make the belly appear to sag. A lack of energy is another symptom you may notice.
In most cases the symptoms are quite mild and for this reason– along with the fact that there could be other causes of these signs – getting a confirmed diagnosis can be challenging.