Cushing’s in Dogs, Symptoms and Treatment

Cushing's in Dogs, Symptoms and Treatment

Cushing’s in Dogs

Cushing’s in dogs, medically known as hyperadrenocorticism, is one of the most common diseases of the endocrine system. As the name suggests, it refers to the excess production of cortisol.

The excessive production of cortisol, which under normal conditions helps the immune system and many other useful functions, can be fatal to an organism. A dog with Cushing’s syndrome may either produce excess cortisol or be given medication that contains the hormone.

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Causes of Cushing’s in Dogs

The most common cause of Cushing’s in dogs is a benign tumor in the pituitary. It can also be caused by a malignant tumor that metastasizes throughout the body, but it is less common.

If a dog´s condition is associated directly with problems in the pituitary gland, it is known as pituitary-dependent hyperadrenocorticism (PDH). PDH is responsible for approximately 80 percent of Cushing’s cases. A tumor on the adrenal glands (adrenal-dependent hyperadrenocorticism) is responsible for about 20% of the cases.

Another potential cause of Cushing’s in dogs is the excessive administration of drugs containing cortisol.

Symptoms of Cushing’s in Dogs

If you suspect that your dog has Cushing’s, you should look at some obvious symptoms.  Below is a list of the most common signs of the disease in your dog. Keep in mind though, that symptoms may vary depending on the patient or they can be associated with other diseases.

  • Increase in appetite
  • Increased thirst and urination
  • Recurrent infections of the skin, ears, urinary tract, etc.
  • Thick pads on the neck and shoulders.
  • Lethargy
  • Hair loss
  • Inability to sleep
  • Bruising
  • Thin skin
  • Hard white scaly patches on the knee, elbow, etc.
  • Behavioral changes due to neurological abnormalities
  • Blackheads on the skin
  • Obesity


If a dog has developed the condition due to medications with cortisol, these should be removed little by little. If removed all at once, the dog can die from a condition known as an Addisonian crisis.

Usually, the veterinarian will prescribe one of two drugs: mitotane (Lysodren) or trilostane (Vetoryl). These drugs have some serious side effects so dogs using them should be monitored closely.

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