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What is Cushing’s Disease?

Cushing’s disease has two forms:

  1. Pituitary dependent hyperadrenocorticism: PDH involves the oversecretion of ACTH by the pituitary gland. ACTH is a hormone that stimulates the adrenal gland to produce glucocorticoids. The pituitary gland is most likely overproducing ACTH because of a pituitary tumor. The PDH form of the disease is responsible for around 80% of the cases of canine Cushing’s disease.

  2. Adrenal-based hyperadrenocorticism: The adrenal-based form of the disease is usually a result of an adrenal tumor that causes an over secretion of glucocorticoids. Adrenal tumors are responsible for around 20% of the cases of Cushing’s disease. There is also a form of the disease called “iatrogenic” Cushing’s disease that occurs as a result of giving the animal high doses of steroids. In this form of the disease, symptoms of Cushing’s disease will go away once the steroids are discontinued.

Symptoms for Cushing’s Include:

-Increased appetite

-Weight gain

-Increased drinking and urination

-Panting

-Bulging abdomen

-Skin lumps and discoloring

-Muscle weakness, and even nervous system disorders

This disease can be tricky. Pets do not appear to be critically ill because the usual danger signs of vomiting, diarrhea, pain, seizures, and bleeding do not occur. The symptoms of Cushing’s often appear to be connected to just normal aging.

A complete blood count (CBC), blood chemistry panel, and urinalysis should be performed as a routine part of the evaluation for diagnosis.

What to feed a pet with Cushing’s Disease?

Contact Dr. Judy Jasek, DVM