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What is Cushings Disease?
Cushings disease (hyperadrenocorticism) is a relatively uncommon disease that is mostly found in middle aged to older dogs. It is caused by a benign or malignant tumour in the pituitary or adrenal glands. It can also be caused by prolonged use of steroids. The condition causes the adrenal glands, which sit on top of the kidneys to produce too much cortisol. Any breed can be affected, but the most common are:
- Poodles, especially miniature poodles
- Boston terriers
- Yorkshire terriers
- Staffordshire terriers
The unpleasant side effects of too much cortisol in the body are:
- Excessive thirst (polydipsia)
- Lots of peeing (polyuria), accidents at night
- Increased hunger
- Excessive panting
- Pot belly
- Obesity, with fat especially on neck and shoulders
- Hair loss
- Low Energy
- Muscle weakness, especially hind legs
- Thin or darkened skin
- Hard, white scaly patches on the skin, elbows, etc.
Cushings disease can be complicated for vets to diagnose as they will need to do a few tests to come to a definite diagnosis. Cushings Disease can be quite an expensive disease to diagnose and treat. Unfortunately, this can be a barrier for people to seeking treatment.
Conventional treatment will vary due to a range of factors such as; location of the tumour, health and age of the dog, plus fi nances of the owners. Drugs, radiation or surgery can all be used to treat the disease. Your vet will inform you of whether these are suitable options for your dogs individual case.
So your Dogs has Cushings, What now?
The diagnosis of Cushings Disease and the mention of a 'tumour' can be terrifying and very upsetting for owners. But many dogs can and do have a good quality of life, especially if diagnosed early. Many do live years after diagnosis, with a good quality of life if treated. If you want your dog to have the best outcome, along with treatment, you may have to adjust their diet, exercise routine and add in some supplements.
Many Vets will start patients on pharmaceutical medications such as Trilostane (Vetoryl). This medication can be very effective at lowering cortisol in the body. Generally it is recommended for the rest of your dogs life. Your vet will still want to track your dogs cortisol levels regularly to make sure the medication is working effectively. This medication can have excellent outcomes for your dog.
But sometimes the medication may not agree with your dog, or the vet will not recommend it in your dogs case. It is up to you and your vet how you proceed with treatment, but there are some excellent herbs too that can help to lower cortisol in the body.