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Canine Cushing's Syndrome in Dogs
Canine Cushing's Syndrome in dogs is quite rare, but it's good as a dog lover to know the signs and symptoms of this life debilitating condition that can affect your dogs.
Cushing's Syndrome is more accurately known as hyperadrenocorticism, which is an over-production of the cortisteroid hormones by the adrenal gland.
Just as humans can develop Cushings's syndrome, so can dogs.
The difference is that humans can talk and explain how they are feeling, and your dog can't.
This is why it is a vital importance for all dog owners to know what signs and symptoms to look out for in your dog.
Canine Cushing's syndrome actually has very similar symptoms to human Cushing's syndrome, which includes hyperactivity, weight loss, hair thinning and increased appetite.
Sometimes dogs can display symptoms similar to Cushing's Syndrome when being given costisteroid treatment such as prednisone for other conditions. In those cases a simply reduction in dosage will solve the problem.
Signs and symptoms of Canine Cushing's Syndrome
If your dog displays the following symptoms, contact your vet.
- Increased drinking
- increased appetite
- excessive urination
- hair loss
- pendulous abdomen
- skin thinning
- lumpy skin
- increased skin infections
- decrease in activities due to muscles wasting
Unfortunately, many older dogs display many of those symptoms as a normal result of ageing and many owners do not seek veterinary advice until the drinking and urinating becomes a problem.Older dogs tend to get Cushing's Syndrome more than younger dogs.
Further Symptoms of Canine Cushing's Syndrome that your Vet will look for
- high blood pressure
- weakening of heart and skeletal muscles
- nervous system disease
Confirmation of Cushing's Syndrome in Dogs
Your vet will be able to make a diagnosis by a blood test which will show elevated levels of costisteroids in your dog's blood stream. Confirmation is made by taking a blood sample from your dog in the morning. This reading will be the base level. Then an injection is given of a substance called dexamethasone.
Another blood sample is taken from your dog 8 hours later. Normally dexamethasone will suppress levels of corstisone in your dog's blood stream, but with Cushing's Syndrome, this doesn't happen.
Causes of Canine Cushing's Syndrome
Sadly, in 85% of cases of Cushing's Syndrome in dogs, the cause is cancer of the pituitary gland at the base of the head. A further 15% is caused by cancer of the adrenals glands which are situated above the kidneys.
The pituitary gland controls the adrenal glands and so either could be the primary cause of hyperadrenocorticism.
Cortisteroids are released by the adrenal glands.
Your vet has further blood test he can carry out to determine which gland has been affected.
Treatment of Cushing's Syndrome in Dogs
Treatment depends entirely on the primary area of the cancer.
If it is cancer of one the adrenal glands, and specialist tests involving X-rays and scans can pinpoint the affected area, then the adrenal gland can be removed. This is a specialist procedure and your veterinary surgeon may refer your dog to a specialist treatment center.
Cancer of the pituitary gland is not operative in dogs. Your dog cannot be cured of cancer of the pituitary gland, but there are many palliative treatments available to relieve his symptoms.
- Lysodren works by killing the outer layer of the adrenal glands where cortisteroids are produced. To work out the exact dosage, many repeat blood tests will be required because killing too many cells will result in your dog developing Addison's disease which is a result of too little cortisteroids circulating in the body.
- Ketaconazole works by suppressing the production of costisteroids by the adrenal glands. This treatment is expensive and doesn't work in up to 25% of cases. It also required daily monitoring to ensure costisteroid levels remain within normal ranges. Unlike Lysodren, the effects of Ketaconazole are completely reversible.
- Anipryl® is a newer treatment that seems to work by normalising the brain's chemistry and this in turn relieves the dog's symptoms. So far, it seems to be successful in treating 70% of dogs with Cushing's Syndrome.
If you suspect your dog has the symptoms of canine Cushing's Syndrome, it is better to get an early a diagnosis as possible, so please see your vet straight away.
Left untreated, your dog will develop congestive heart failure, diabetes, liver and kidney failure, and a whole host of nasty infections guaranteed to make him feel miserable.
The sooner treatment is started, the sooner you can bring some happiness back into the life of your dog.
Dogs can become almost like family members, but pleased be warned that dogs diagnosed with a pituitary tumor rarely live longer than 2 years after the initial diagnosis, but you can make those years comfortable for your dog.