General Information by Dr. Sophie Haynes, Medicine Specialist
Cushing’s disease (also known and Hyperadenocorticism or “HyperA”) is a relatively common hormonal disease of older dogs.
It occurs rarely in cats. There are two main types, pituitary- dependent (approximately 85% of cases) and adrenal-dependent (15%). In both types, the main cause of the clinical signs is too much cortisol production in the adrenal glands. Pituitary- dependent Cushing’s occurs because a small benign growth in the pituitary gland at the base of the brain sends out an increased amount of signalling protein (ACTH) to the adrenal glands, overstimulating them. Adrenal –dependent Cushing’s occurs when one of the adrenal glands contains a mass/tumour which produces too much cortisol.
The clinical signs that may suggest your dog has Cushing’s disease are numerous and varied, some dogs only have one or two signs, others have many. This can sometimes make it hard to diagnose. Common signs are:
- Drinking and urinating increased amounts
- Increased appetite
- Pot-bellied appearance
- Thin haircoat
- Thinning skin, sometimes with firm areas of mineralisation
- Less commonly, shaking and muscle weakness or mental dullnessThe clinical signs can be very subtle in the beginning and progress over weeks to months. It is a slow insidious disease….With the right treatment and monitoring, the prognosis for Cushing’s disease is good, with many dogs living a good quality life for years.
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