Cushing's Disease in Dogs

Cushing's Disease in Dogs

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If your adult or older dog is drinking a lot more water and urinating more frequently, then you’d better keep an eye on them. Drinking and urinating a lot is common in many diseases though, it’s one of the most classic symptoms for hyperadrenocorticism - or crushing's disease in dogs.
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Cushing's disease is one of the common endocrine-system-disorders for dogs which is led by the overproducing amount of cortisol steroid- one hormone secreted by the adrenal gland. Cortisol is not a harmful hormone when its amount is kept under a normal range. It can help to strengthen the dogs' immune systems and help them to respond to stress. Besides thirst and urination, there are many other symptoms of Cushing's disease as well. If your dogs have more than three of the following symptoms, you have to take them to the vet:

  • Easily getting thirsty.

  • Urinating frequently in the middle of the night.

  • Massive hair loss.

  • Weight gain for no reason.

  • Lack of vitality.

  • Increased panting.

  • Obvious changes in the appearance (including darkening skin, bruising, or thin skin)

Note that not every dog will have exactly the same symptoms when having a Cushing's disease. The best way to diagnose your dog is taking him to the vet as soon as possible.


Hyperadrenocorticism is a naturally occurring disease that's common among adult and elder dogs. If you wanna make clear of the causes behind the syndrome, you have to understand the working mechanism of the adrenal glands first. The adrenal glands are near the kidney. The main function of which is to produce cortisol for regulating the immune system and reacting to the body's "fight or flight" mechanism when reacting to stressors. Well, Cushing's disease happens when the adrenal glands overproduce cortisol. There are three types of Cushing's disease based on different causes.

First, benign or malignant pituitary gland tumor. This one is the most common cause of Cushing's disease, which takes more than 85% of all cases. The pituitary gland is located in the brain, which works like the boss of the adrenal glands. Normally, it will produce an ACTH hormone to stimulate the adrenal glands to do their job. For dogs having a tumor, the pituitary gland will overproduce ACTH, which will thus lead the adrenal glands to overproduce cortisol and make the dog ill. Second, benign or malignant adrenal gland tumor. In this case, the tumor affects the adrenal glands directly. Third, iatrogenic Cushing's disease, which is led by the prolonged and high-dose use of steroids. 


There are different treatment options according to different types of Cushing's disease. The vet will choose the most appropriate one for your dog based on his or her situation. For the most common one, Cushing's disease caused by pituitary tumors, cures are simple. The most commonly used two drugs are trilostane and mitotane. For Cushing's disease caused by the adrenal tumor, dogs usually need surgery. But surgery will not have the same effect on every dog. It's more useful to dogs whose tumor is benign or can be removed entirely. For iatrogenic Cushing's disease, the treatment is more complicated. Because it's caused by the overuse of medication, dogs with this form of Cushing's disease need to be gradually weaned off the old medications. The whole discontinuation process should take a long period of time to avoid complications.


Unfortunately, there's no certain way that is verified as useful to prevent Cushing's disease. However, there is still much you can do to avoid further damages. As your dog is reaching middle age, you need to take it to the vet and do the diagnose tests more regularly. Early Cushing's disease is hard to be noticed because many of its symptoms are similar to the dog's natural aging progression. If you can be more aware of the signs and symptoms of Cushing's disease, your dog can be treated much earlier. Plus, several certain breeds of dogs are more easily to develop Cushing's disease. If your dog belongs to the following breeds: Beagles, German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers, you need to pay more attention to their health conditions. 

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