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What is Cushing’s Disease?

Cushing’s disease has been around since 1912 but doctors of veterinary medicine are diagnosing it now more than ever. Why is that? Experts are not sure if the syndrome has become more prevalent or if veterinary doctors are just looking for and diagnosing it more.

What exactly is Cushing’s disease?

Cushing’s Disease, otherwise known as hyperadrenocorticism, is the overproduction of cortisol, which is produced by the adrenal glands. There are two types of Cushing’s disease. Pituitary Dependent Cushing’s is brought on by the overproduction of the hormone produced by the pituitary gland, which controls the amount of cortisol produced by the adrenal glands. These adrenal glands are located close to the kidney. The second type, Adrenal Dependant Cushing’s, is caused by a tumor within that same adrenal gland which will also force the release of too much cortisol.

Most commonly a disease that afflicts dogs, cats do fall victim to this as well however, very rarely. Most dogs are about six years old when signs of the disease flare up. The main problem with this disease is that when cortisol is released in such large quantities; it affects the functions of many different organs within the body. It also affects the immune system by suppressing it which leads to a variety of issues health wise.

Signs and symptoms are rather varied but can be:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Increase in thirst as well as urination
  • Hair loss
  • Itchy and sometimes thin skin
  • Bruises easily
  • Panting and becoming tired easily

Diagnosis of this disease is not very straight forward and can take some time to figure out. The symptoms come on slowly and the subtlety makes it difficult to diagnose in the earliest of stages. Of course the tumor within your pet’s gland can most often provide your Vet with a large clue as to what he is dealing with, but Pituitary dependent disease is much more difficult.

Treatment once diagnosed will vary and your vet will work with you to determine the best course of action for your pet.   If you see any of the above mention symptoms in your pet, seek immediate guidance from your Vet. Again, many pets exhibit different signs so remain patient and vigilant if you suspect something is just not right with your pet.

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