Cushing’s disease or syndrome (Hyperadrenocorticism) is caused when an excessive amount of certain hormones, called corticosteroids, are present in the body. The production of these hormones is regulated by an area in the brain called the pituitary gland and produced by the adrenal glands located near the kidneys. Corticosteroids are necessary for normal body function, but the excessive production can lead to a variety of secondary diseases.
The most common clinical signs are increased appetite, water consumption, and urination. A “potbellied” appearance is often seen due to an enlarged liver and weakened muscles. These pets often have a poor hair coat and thin skin. Sometimes a patient with Cushing’s disease is presented due to lack of hair regrowth after surgery. Some patients will show decreased energy, although this is often slow to develop and a subtle change. Some patients also present for panting.
The most common test is an ACTH stimulation blood test. This test will tell us if your dog has Cushing’s disease, but then other tests are needed to determine the type of Cushing’s disease. These are a combination of blood tests and possibly ultrasound, MRI, or CT scanning. Once the specific type of Cushing’s has been determined, then therapy can be instituted.
Depending upon the type of Cushing’s disease present, treatment may vary from slow tapering of steroid therapy for Iatrogenic Cushing’s to using specific drugs to shrink down the overactive adrenal glands or surgically removing a tumor.