There are various causes of Cushings disease in dogs. Cushing’s disease is related to a hormonal imbalance of the adrenal glands. The adrenal glands are located near your dog’s kidneys. Cushing disease affects an estimated 100,000 dogs a year in the United States. It is a serious life threatening illness. This disease is seen more frequently in dachshunds, poodles, boxers and boston terriers that are over eight years old. Dogs with cushings disease have other health related problems such as diabetes, pancreatitis and infections. These dogs will drink a lot of water, urinate excessively, have a symmetrical pattern of hair loss, become weak and get a pot belly.
The pituitary and adrenal glands work together to produce a balance of hormones in a healthy dog. If either of these glands malfunction, a dog will develop abnormally high levels of hormones which leads to cushings syndrome.
Three main causes of cushing’s disease in dogs are:
In the pituitary dependent a tumor growing on the pituitary stimulates the gland to create an excess of adrenocorticotrophic hormones. These tumors are usually benign. This causes the adrenal glands to produce too much cortisol. This happens in eighty five percent of dogs with cushings disease. It can cause neurological problems and death in the dog.
Adrenal based accounts for fifteen percent of the cases. It is caused by a tumor located on the adrenal gland which disrupts communication between the adrenal glands and the pituitary gland that causes an over production of cortisol. At least fifty percent of these tumors are malignant. If the tumor is removed, there is a good chance the disease will come back.
Iatrogenic hyperadrenocorticism occurs when a dog receives long term therapy with steroids for treatment of allergies. It reduces inflammation and suppresses the immune system.
Canine cushings disease can manifest itself through many symptoms. Dogs can display just one or many of these symptoms.
Signs of cushing’s disease in dogs:
Increased water consumption
Hair loss (both sides of the body and legs)
Pot belly appearance
A dog that has been on long term corticosteroid therapy can develop cushing’s syndrome. It can cause skin changes as many endocrine disorders do. The skin areas often turn brown. Most endocrine disorders are treatable. Your vet will want to do blood tests and a urinalysis before he can make a specific diagnosis.
Cushings syndrome can be managed by medications that suppress cortisol production. This therapy does not provide a cure, but relieves symptoms. In some cases, tumors can be surgically removed in adrenal based hyperadrenocorticism. Radiation and chemotherapy can be used in dogs that are not surgical candidates.