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Dogs With Cushing's Disease

Cushing's Disease (Cushing's Syndrome), named after a Boston surgeon who first described the disease in people, is caused by elevated concentrations of circulating cortisol. It usually occurs in middle aged to older dogs, however, exceptions may occur. Normally, the pituitary gland produces a hormone, adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), which in turn stimulates the adrenal gland to produce cortisol, a glucocorticoid. But if things get out of whack in either the pituitary or adrenal gland, too much cortisol may be produced causing Cushing's Disease.


Signs and symptoms:

These will vary greatly depending on the amount of excess cortisol and the length of the illness.

Screening Tests

Definitive testing to differentiate Pituitary Dependent from Adrenal Tumor Hyperadrenocorticism


Surgery: Not an option for pituitary tumors, but is a possibility for adrenocortico adenoma and small carcinoma if the dog is in otherwise good health and the tumor is benign. Malignant adrenal tumors that have already spread are poor surgical risks and medical management may be preferred. For pituitary tumors, radiation therapy has been used with success when the tumor is less than 15 mm in diameter. However, the radiation therapy will not be available at all clinics.

Medical management of Cushing's due to adrenal tumors uses a higher dose Lysodren than what is administered for PDH. The higher dosage usually causes more side effects.

Medical treatment of PDH: For a more complete description of Cushing's Disease treatments/options, please see the Cushing’s Syndrome Informational Website on the Mar Vista Animal Medical Center site.


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