CUSHING’S Syndrome is a group of clinical signs created by the overproduction of cortisol in the body.
Cortisol is a hormone produced by the adrenal glands that is secreted to help animals react in stressful situations.
However, chronic high levels of this hormone can have many negative effects on the body.
Dogs that are suffering this condition tend to drink a lot of water and therefore urinate a lot.
This is often the first sign that an owner will notice.
There can subsequently be changes in body shape. Muscle loss and the development of a pot belly due to the redistribution of fat are classic signs that develop over time.
Muscle weakness can be a problem as well.
Dogs can also develop skin changes like thinning, roughness or the development of black pigmentation of the belly.
The onset of this syndrome is insidious and dogs can live with the condition for many years despite it having negative impacts on their health.
Diagnosis is based on blood tests that assess the level of cortisol in the bloodstream before and after administration of stimulants or suppressants.
Ultrasound of the adrenal glands can also be done to look for an adrenal gland tumour.
If a definitive diagnosis is made treatment should be considered.
Medications are available that suppress the production of cortisol down to normal levels.
If an adrenal gland tumour is the cause, surgical removal is usually necessary to correct the disease.
With medical management, lifelong medications and monitoring are required to ensure the levels of cortisol remain normal and are not pushed too low or allowed to creep upwards again over time.
If your dog has been drinking more water than usual an assessment by your vet for Cushing’s Syndrome (or other possible causes) is recommended.