Cortisol is imperative for helping dogs deal with stress. However, an overproduction of cortisol can be harmful. Hyperadrenocorticism (HAC), otherwise known as Cushing’s disease, occurs when a dog’s adrenal glands produce too much cortisol.
Cushing’s disease typically stems from one of three things:
- A tumor on the pituitary gland (tumors are typically benign)
- A tumor on the adrenal gland
- Excessive administration of a steroid medication (known as “Iatrogenic Cushing’s Disease”)
Symptoms of Cushing’s disease include increased thirst, increased urination, panting, increased appetite, and a pot-bellied appearance. Some less common symptoms are reproductive failure, neurologic signs, and throwing blood clots.
Treatment options depend on the cause of the disease. If a steroid-containing medication is to blame, Cushing’s disease usually resolves on its own with the discontinuation of the medication. If an adrenal tumor is found, medication to shrink the tumor is administered and the mass is typically removed. If a pituitary tumor is diagnosed, removal is usually not an option and medication to reduce the production of cortisol is typically prescribed.
Cushing’s disease progresses slowly and treatment isn’t always recommended if symptoms are mild or not present. A veterinarian may suggest treatment if the patient is suffering from hypertension, reoccurring urinary or skin infections, or progressive kidney damage.
If your pet is exhibiting any symptoms of Cushing’s disease, or if you have any questions or concerns, contact a veterinarian. For an in-depth look at the disease, refer to VetDepot’s Cushing’s disease article.