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The more we learn about our pet’s internal systems, the more we realize that they face some of the same diseases and disorders we do. Diseases such as diabetes and pancreatitis also affect our animals. However, in this blog, our attention is directed towards Cushing’s disease.

Keep reading as we dive deeper into what Cushing’s disease is, what symptoms to look for, how the condition is treated, and how BEVS can help with diagnosis and treatment.

Cushing’s Disease 101

Cushing’s disease is characterized by excess glucocorticoid (steroid) secretion from the adrenal gland or glands. In most cases, this is caused by a small benign tumor in the pituitary (brain). Sometimes the pituitary tumor is large. At other times, the tumor could be in the adrenal itself. Adrenal tumors are benign or malignant. In all of these cases, the clinical signs are due to excess glucocorticoid secretion.

According to the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, breeds most affected by Cushing’s include Bichon Frise, Jack Russell Terriers, Staffordshire Terriers, and Miniature Poodles.

Symptoms of Cushing’s disease include:

  • Excessive panting
  • Increased appetite
  • Elevated thirst
  • Increased urination
  • Lethargy
  • Thinning of the skin
  • Recurrent infections
  • Weight gain with “potbelly” appearance

You know your dog best, so if something seems off, it’s important to bring them to your primary care veterinarian or our Internal Medicine Service to get an accurate diagnosis.

Diagnosis and Treatment for Cushing’s Disease

Veterinarians diagnose Cushing’s disease by observing clinical signs, conducting physical examinations, and identifying classic changes on complete blood count, chemistry screen, urinalysis, and abdominal ultrasound. Other testing such as urine culture, urine protein to creatinine ratio, blood pressure, and chest radiographs will help complete the diagnostic evaluation.

If these preliminary tests suggest that your dog could have Cushing’s disease, adrenal axis testing (an ACTH stimulation test, endogenous ACTH, and/or low-dose dexamethasone suppression test) will be performed to confirm this suspicion. These tests are performed only if there is a high index of suspicion for the disease. The reason so many tests are listed (and performed), is that unfortunately there is not one perfect diagnostic test for Cushing’s disease. It is important (and sometimes challenging) to make an accurate diagnosis!

Pituitary-dependent Cushing’s disease is usually treated with a twice-daily oral medication called trilostane. However, another oral medication called Lysodren is sometimes available. Surgery and radiation therapy are used infrequently. Adrenal-dependent Cushing’s disease is generally treated with surgery.

How BEVS Can Help

At BEVS, our team of veterinary specialists is led by medical director Bryan Harnett, DVM, DACVIM, a board-certified veterinary internist who provides today’s most advanced diagnostic testing and treatment. Our animal hospital has sophisticated and comprehensive diagnostic capabilities to accurately diagnose and treat illnesses like Cushing’s.

To schedule a consultation with a BEVS veterinary internist or surgeon, simply call us at 802-863-2387.

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