Cushing's Disease

Cushing's disease occurs when the adrenal gland produces too much cortisone, causing an imbalance of hormones. Symptoms are: increased thirst, thinning coat and a pendulous abdomen. The condition can be treated with pills, or by removing the overactive adrenal glands.

Cushing's disease is a common condition in middle to older age dogs and is often mistaken for the aging process itself. Dogs gain weight, lose hair, urinate in the house, and make owners begin to prematurely consider euthanasia. Yet Cushing's disease is treatable and that treatment can result in a longer, more comfortable life for the dog and its owner. Thus, it is important for the owner to learn the basic facts about Cushing's disease.

The most common symptoms include:

  • increased/excessive water consumption (polydipsia)

  • increased/excessive urination (polyuria)

  • urinary accidents in previously housetrained dogs

  • increased/excessive appetite (polyphagia)

  • appearance of food stealing/guarding, begging, trash dumping, etc.

  • sagging, bloated, pot-bellied appearance

  • weight gain or its appearance, due to fat redistribution

  • loss of muscle mass, giving the appearance of weight loss

  • bony, skull-like appearance of head

  • exercise intolerance, lethargy, general or hind-leg weakness

  • new reluctance to jump on furniture or people

  • excess panting, seeking cool surfaces to rest on

  • symmetrically thinning hair or baldness (alopecia) on torso

  • other coat changes like dullness, dryness

  • slow regrowth of hair after clipping

  • thin, wrinkled, fragile, and/or darkly pigmented skin

  • easily damaged/bruised skin that heals slowly

  • hard, calcified lumps in the skin (calcinosis cutis)

  • susceptibility to infections (especially skin and urinary)

  • diabetes, pancreatitis, seizures