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What is Cushing’s Disease?

Cushing’s disease or hyperadrenocorticism is a disease that affects the adrenal glands. Cushing’s disease can either arise from the adrenal glands or from the pituitary gland (in the brain).  Normal adrenal glands function to provide cortisol (stress hormone), mineralocorticoids (hormones to help regulate electrolytes), and androgens (sex hormones).   Animals that suffer from Cushing’s disease typically have an increase in the production of cortisol only.  This causes increase thirst, hunger, panting, and may cause change in haircoat (dry  fur, loss of fur).  Also very typically these dogs have a “pot-bellied” appearance.

How is Cushing’s disease diagnosed?

Based on the clinical signs above, if your veterinarian suspects Cushing’s disease, they will recommend general screening lab work to look for changes to the liver that is consistent with Cushing’s. The next step is a specific test; either an ACTH stimulation test or a low dose dexamethasone suppression test.  These are both done in the office and take a few hours.

How is Cushing’s disease treated?

Once a diagnosis is made, Cushing’s disease can be treated with oral medications.   These medic ations do require monitoring with regular blood work and exams performed by your veterinarian.

For more information about Cushing’s disease or other pet concerns, the Veterinary Partner website is full of accurate information.

Any specific questions should be addressed by your veterinarian.

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