How to Diagnose Cushings Disease in Dogs
Cushing's disease is a treatable health problem for dogs. All dog owners need to be aware of the symptoms. Cushing's disease is more common in older dogs and is correctly called hyperadrenocorticism. Many times cushing's disease goes undiagnosed because owners assume the symptoms are just related to typical aging in their dog.
Cushing's disease is basically due to a problem with the pituitary gland not regulating cortisol production, causing there to be too much cortisol, which in effect poisons the dog. This is most often due to a tumor, but can also be caused by the over use of cortisosteroid drugs given to the dog.
There is not a test specifically for Cushing's disease but a veterinarian can do blood work, or urine tests to help rule out other problems that could show some of the same symptoms. A CT scan could be done to show a tumor but is generally considered too expensive for most owners, and not really required when enough of the other symptoms are present.
Symptoms of Cushing's Disease in Dogs
Thinning hair on the body, often symmetrical, bald areas may appear
In general the dog's coat will not look as healthy or shiny
Skin loses its overall elastic ability, appearing drier, and more fragile, possibly getting dark pigment spots
Cuts take longer to heal
Dog may urinate in the house when it was fully house trained previously
Increased appetite even to the point that the dog starts taking things out of the garbage and is always hungry
The dog's stomach may appear bloated (not to be confused with “bloat” which comes on suddenly and can be fatal), swollen, distended, or somewhat pot-bellied
The dog will gain weight
Despite the increased appetite and weight gain, the dog will lose muscle tone
Decline in energy level
The dog's head will show what most people will consider to be “signs of aging” looking more bony
The dog may have a weaker immunity, leaving it more at risk for other health problems, including urinary tract infections and skin conditions, such as mange
The dog may also have other health problems such as diabetes or seizures
Dogs who were arthritic may appear to be “pain free”.
Cushings disease is more common in certain dog breeds such as the poodle, German shepherd, boxer, as well as the terrier breeds and retrievers. Symptoms of Cushing's disease usually starts at around age 7. Most symptoms do not show up “over night” rather they are a gradual change in the health of the dog and may not be as easily noticed by the owner as they would by somebody who sees the dog less frequently.
If you suspect your dog has Cushing's disease he, or she, should see their veterinarian. Many of the symptoms are also indicators of other health issues, none of which should be ignored. As these symptoms are also often common in older dogs it is not good to assume a dog is just aging prematurely, but rather, Cushing's should be considered.