About Cushing's Disease in Dogs

By Justine Depalma
According to Washington State University Veterinary School, Cushing’s disease occurs when the adrenal glands produce too much of the hormone cortisol. Cushing’s occurs most often in dogs over 6 years of age. Cushing’s is treated by prescription medication and occasionally surgery.


Symptoms of Cushing’s disease are frequent bacterial infections, drinking large volumes of water, hair loss, thinning skin, increased appetite and a potbelly.


Cushing’s is usually caused by a malfunction of the pituitary gland that causes the production of high levels of cortisol. A tumor on the adrenal gland may also cause Cushing’s.


High levels of cortisol affect many of the body’s systems. Too much cortisol suppresses the immune system and may damage the heart or liver.


The dog must be seen by a veterinarian for testing to diagnose Cushing’s disease. Blood and urine tests that look for markers indicating Cushing’s are performed if it is suspected.


According to Washington State University Veterinary School, surgery is usually recommended to treat adrenal gland tumors. Dogs with pituitary gland malfunction receive medication that regulates cortisol production. Dogs must remain on the medication for the remainder of their lives.
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