Cushings Disease got its name after the neurosurgeon that first discovered it and is commonly known as Hyperadrenocorticism. It is a condition that results because of over-production of the adrenal hormone called Cortisols. Pituitary gland normally is responsible for producing a hormone stimulating adrenal gland to further produce a hormone called Glucocorticoid.
The disease is life long one and can be kept under control by using medicines. It is usually found in middle-aged or older dogs. But there are certain breeds of dogs more prone to this disease like the German shepherd, Terrier, Poodles, Golden retriever, and Daschunds. Female dogs are more vulnerable to this disease.
types of Cushings Disease
There are 3 types of Cushings Disease
1) Pituitary tumor-The tumor causes over-production of Cortisol by the adrenal glands and is very common in dogs.
2) Adrenal glands- The gland develops a tumor that is responsible for causing a large quantity of Cortisol to be produced. This is very uncommon in dogs. However, female dogs are more prone to this disease. The vet may use ultrasound to detect the tumor.
3) Latrogenic- It occurs because the dog’s blood is over-filled by Corticosteroids that are used for treating arthritis, allergies and skin disorders. The over presence of Corticosteroids do not allow the normal secretion of cortisol and thus reduces in size.
Symptoms/ Signs of Cushings Disease
It is a slow developing disease and is not always identified at an early stage. The following are its symptoms or signs-
1) Increased drinking and excess urination-
The intake of water goes up from a couple of drinks to about 13-14 a day. This is an unusual sign as dogs get their fluids from the food they eat. Over drinking of water results in frequent urination than necessary. Also, excessive drinking is a symptom of Addison’s and may thus be misdiagnosed. The symptom is present in over 85% of the animals affected by Cushings Disease.
2) Thin and fragile skin-
The hair of dogs with black coat turns into brown or rust in color. This is a clear sign that there is something wrong with the dog. This is a common symptom or sign of Cushings disease. The thinning results in damaging the skin easily and it takes a lot of time for it to heal.
3) Loss of hair-
This is yet another sign of this disease. Hair loss or alopecia usually starts spreading on the areas like elbows and then goes towards the abdomen and ultimately only the head and other parts that get exposed to the sun have hair on them.
4) Increase in the appetite-
There is an increase in the food intake and dogs always ask for more food. This may cause the dogs to be over protective about their food. This behavior is generally ignored considering the dog to be healthy.
5) Pot belly-
This is because the abdominal area has increased in size. It happens to almost all the dogs suffering from it. A dog develops pot belly because the mass from other parts has shifted to the abdomen and thus results in wasting of muscles.
Treatment/ Vaccination for Cushings Disease
The kind of treatment to be given is decided on the type of disease. Non-surgical treatment is the general way of treating this disease. The following are the ways in which this disease can be cured-
1) Trilostane (Modrenal)-
It is a recently developed treatment. This may be another way of treating adrenal tumor as it puts a restriction on the growth of cortisone. This treatment is a success with almost all the dogs affected by it. The dose of the medicine is increased after some months of treatment and it can be effectively done as it has less side-effects. Also, it does not cause any permanent damage to the adrenal glands and can be easily thrown out of the system, it is comparatively easy to handle it.
It is an anti-fungal that controls hormone production and is orally administered. It is given in cases where Lysodren fails to show result. This method is applied to treat adrenal and pituitary tumor. However, it is rarely used as it has low success rate. Its side effect is that it intervenes synthesis of steroid hormones.
It has been approved by the Food and Drug Adminstration that helps in reducing the production of ACTH which are responsible for controlling the cortisols in the pituitary gland. This is effective only in about 15-40% of the cases.
4) Lysodren (Mitotane)-
This is the oldest treatment and also very cheap in cost. It is necessary that is kept under observation for any side-effects during the early period of treatment. It destroys the adrenal gland cells that produce cortisols. Care must be taken that proper amount of Lysodren is given or the dog may lapse into Addisons disease. If the treatment is successful then the dog needs to be given Lysodren throughout his life. Side-effects of this disease are vomiting, nausea, appetite loss and diarrhea.