Cushing's disease is also known as hyperadrenocorticism, and unfortunately, it is a condition that regularly affects dogs that are over the age of six years old. Although dogs that are younger than the age of six do develop this disorder, it is significantly rarer. Essentially, when Cushing's disease is in effect, the dog's adrenal gland becomes hyperactive, and because of this will put too many steroids and hormones into the dog's body. This may be caused by the growth of a tumor in the pituitary gland or the adrenal gland.
How is Cushing's disease diagnosed? The issue is that this is a condition which has a difficult diagnosis. While there is no one test that can identify it, it is usually diagnosed through the use of blood and urine tests. A heightened level of hormones of various types is often used to identify Cushing's disease. Because of the nature of the disease, it will vary which hormones are overproduced. Depending on the hormones that have gone into overproduction, the results can vary widely and in the case of several, they can be extremely subtle.
When looking at how a dog might be affected by Cushing's disease, one very common effect is that glucocorticoids are produced much more prolifically. Because there is so much in the dog's body, this can cause the effected dog to have a serious breakdown in muscle development. In many dogs, this will result in a very thin legged, large bellied look. A dog that has this disorder might have a difficult when it comes to concentrating urine, and the result is that your dog might suddenly seem very thirsty and urinate more than is normal. Some other symptoms that might notice include fatigue and a real lack of inclination to exercise and in some cases there are actually no symptoms at all.
Another factor in the disease is that it can affect the immune system fairly seriously and secondary infections can become a serious problem. If the pancreas is affected, it can cause vomiting and diarrhea. Dogs suffering from this disorder might show an increased appetite, a great deal more panting or high blood pressure. You might also notice symptoms like hair loss and hard lumps under the skin show up as well.
Depending on the severity, Cushing's disease might also be treated medically or surgically. For instance, one form of treating involves removing the growth that stimulates the hormonal production, while another treatment will involve medication that slows down production rate in the adrenal gland. The use of medication is much more popular and surgery is usually only used when medication proves to be ineffective. The health of the dog and the ability of the owner to care for the dog afterwards might also determine the course of the treatment.
While Cushing's disease can make a dog more susceptible to disease through weakening his immune system, the condition itself is rarely life threatening. When considering the effects of Cushing's disease, you are looking for a way to prioritize your pet's quality of life.