Skip to Main Content
Ask About Financing


Cushing's Disease in Dogs: Causes & Treatment

Cushing's Disease in Dogs: Causes & Treatment

In dogs, Cushing's disease can lead to serious long-term health issues. It is important for owners to understand the complications of this disease and how it is helped. In this post, our McAllen veterinarians discuss the causes and treatment of Cushing's disease in dogs.

What is Cushing's disease in dogs?

Cushing's disease in dogs is a serious illness that is caused by the overproduction of cortisol by the adrenal gland. This illness can cause a range of subsequent health issues, including diabetes and kidney damage. It can also be life-threatening. 

The following symptoms are commonly found in dogs with Cushing's disease:

  • Panting
  • Lethargy
  • Increased appetite 
  • Thinning of the skin
  • Excessive thirst or drinking 
  • Hair loss 
  • Enlarged abdomen, potbellied appearance 
  • Frequent urination

How is Cushing's disease diagnosed?

Your veterinarian will perform a physical exam and run appropriate tests to determine the cause of your pet's symptoms and to rule out other health issues. These tests may include, but are not limited to, complete blood panel, urine culture, urinalysis, and/or full chemistry panel. 

Your vet may order adrenal function tests, testing adrenal low dose and high dose dexamethasone suppression test. That said, adrenal function tests can give false positives when another disease with similar clinical symptoms is present. 

An ultrasound may help to rule out other conditions that could potentially be causing your dog's symptoms. Other diseases that can cause similar symptoms include bladder stones, gallbladder disease, chronic inflammatory liver disease, gastrointestinal disease, and tumors in the liver or spleen.

What are the treatments for Cushing’s disease in dogs?

Canine Cushing's disease is typically treated with medication that helps decrease cortisone production of the adrenal glands. The only known cure to Cushing's disease in dogs is surgical removal of the tumor. However, this is a complex and risky procedure, so medicative treatment is typically used instead. 

Treatments will vary depending on the type of Cushing’s disease your dog has.

Pituitary tumor. Treatment of pituitary dependent Cushing’s disease is the most complicated. Two drugs, trilostane and mitotane are commonly used. 

Adrenal tumor. Treatment of an adrenal dependent Cushing’s disease usually requires major abdominal surgery. If the entire tumor is able to be removed and the tumor is not malignant, there is a good chance that your dog will regain normal health. 

Iatrogenic Cushing’s disease. Treatment requires gradual discontinuation of the steroid, usually resulting in a recurrence of the disease that was being treated by the steroid.  

As your pet ages, monitoring their blood and health becomes essential. 

Is Cushing's disease fatal in dogs?

The cause of your dog's Cushing's disease as well as the conditions your pup develops that are linked to the disease are going to impact your pet's prognosis. Early diagnosis and treatment are essential for limiting the severity of the disease.

The symptoms of Cushing’s disease can be minimized with diligent observation and long-term management. 

Most dogs can be successfully treated with few medication side effects. However, the wrong dose can cause mild or severe side effects. Therefore, your pet must be carefully monitored and follow-up blood tests are essential.

Dogs who do not receive adequate monitoring and follow-up often experience relapses and severe illness or death, as a result of complications.

Have you noticed any symptoms of Cushing's disease in your dog? Contact our McAllen vets to book an examination today.

Now Welcoming New Patients

Looking for a vet in McAllen? Nolana Animal Hospital is now accepting new patients! Our welcoming vets are passionate about pets and will provide your cat or dog with the care they need. Contact us today to schedule your pet's first appointment.

Contact Us

(956) 686-3765 Contact