Cushing's Disease in Dogs: What it is, Symptoms and Treatment

Enfermedad de Cushing en Perros: Qué es, Síntomas y Tratamiento

Welcome Waggyfriend! In this blog, we will delve into the fascinating topic of Cushing's syndrome in dogs. Have you ever wondered how this condition affects our faithful four-legged companions? What are the signs to take into account? How can we help prevent it or manage it if it is already present? Throughout this blog, we will explain in depth this syndrome, its causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment options. Let us begin!

What is Cushing's syndrome in dogs?

Cushing's syndrome in dogs, also known as hypercortisolism, is a medical condition that results from excessive production of cortisol, a steroid hormone produced by the adrenal glands. This excess cortisol can be caused by several reasons, the most common being pituitary-dependent Cushing's disease, where there is an abnormal growth of a tumor in the gland that stimulates excessive production of cortisol.

Causes of Cushing's syndrome in dogs

Cushing's syndrome in dogs can be caused by different factors, however, here we explain the most common ones:

Pituitary-dependent Cushing's disease

This is the most common cause and occurs when there is an abnormal growth of a tumor in the pituitary gland, which produces excess adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), which in turn stimulates the adrenal glands to produce more cortisol.

Adrenal-dependent Cushing's disease

This occurs due to a tumor in one or both adrenal glands, which leads to excessive production of cortisol directly from the adrenal gland.

Long-term steroid use

Prolonged administration of steroids, either to treat other diseases or as immunosuppressive therapy, can suppress the normal function of the adrenal glands and result in the development of Cushing's syndrome.

Ectopic ACTH-producing tumors

In some rare cases, tumors outside the pituitary gland can produce ACTH, thereby stimulating the production of cortisol by the adrenal glands and causing Cushing's syndrome.

Latrogenic cause

Cushing's syndrome can sometimes be caused by taking too much corticosteroid-containing medications, such as prednisone or dexamethasone, as part of the treatment of other diseases.

What symptoms does a dog with Cushing's have?

Increased thirst and urination

Dogs with Cushing's syndrome tend to drink more water than usual and may need to urinate more frequently as a result.

Increased appetite

If your dog doesn't want to eat but suddenly experiences an increase in appetite, this can lead to weight gain.

Hair loss and thinning skin

The skin of a dog with Cushing's syndrome may become thinner and more fragile, and they may develop patches of dog hair loss or bald areas. In this case, you must know how to comb a dog to prevent further shedding with the brush.

Lethargy and muscle weakness

Affected dogs may show signs of fatigue, lethargy, and muscle weakness, which may manifest as difficulty getting up or moving.

Increased pigmentation

Some dogs may develop hyperpigmentation, meaning their skin may become darker, especially in areas such as the groin, armpits, and around the mouth.

Predisposition to skin infections

Thin and weakened skin can make dogs with Cushing's syndrome more susceptible to bacterial or fungal skin infections.

Abdominal distension

Some dogs may develop a distended abdomen due to fluid buildup in the abdominal cavity, known as ascites.

How to diagnose Cushing's disease in dogs?

Diagnosing Cushing's syndrome in dogs involves a multifaceted approach. Here are some of the common tests used to diagnose this disease:

Medical history and physical examination

The veterinarian will collect detailed information about the symptoms they have observed in your dog, as well as any relevant medical history. Next, he or she will perform a complete physical exam to look for signs associated with Cushing's syndrome, such as hair loss, thinning skin, an enlarged abdomen, etc.

Blood test

Blood tests may be done to measure levels of cortisol and other related hormones, such as adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH).

Urine analysis

Urine samples can be analyzed to detect changes in levels of cortisol or its metabolites.

Abdominal ultrasound

An ultrasound may be performed to evaluate the size and shape of the adrenal glands and look for signs of tumors.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computed tomography (CT)

These more advanced imaging tests may be necessary to detect tumors in the pituitary gland or adrenal glands.

Low Dose Dexamethasone Test (LDDST)

In this test, a low dose of dexamethasone is given and then blood cortisol levels are measured. Dogs with Cushing's syndrome generally do not suppress their cortisol levels after dexamethasone administration.

Waggy's recommends going to the vet as soon as you notice signs of seborrheic dermatitis in your dog. The sooner the diagnosis is made and treatment is started, the better the management of the skin condition will be and possible complications can be prevented.

In case the dog does not like to visit the veterinarian, I recommend that you give him Waggy's brand puppy treats. because they contain CBD for dogs , which helps a lot to level the stress and anxiety levels in dogs before going to their session, which will be beneficial for everyone. Furthermore, one of its other ingredients is Omega 3 for dogs , a necessary and essential component for the development of the puppy.

What organs does Cushing's disease in dogs affect?

Cushing's disease in dogs primarily affects two key organs: the adrenal glands and the pituitary gland. These hormonal imbalances can have systemic effects on the dog's body, affecting multiple systems and organs, such as the skin, immune system, and cardiovascular system.

Cushing treatment in dogs

Treatment of Cushing's syndrome in dogs may involve pharmacological options and, in some cases, surgical intervention, depending on the cause and severity of the disease.


  • Medications such as trilostane or mitotane can be used to inhibit the production of cortisol in the adrenal glands. These medications help control the symptoms of Cushing's syndrome by reducing cortisol levels in the body. Regular monitoring of adrenal function and dosage adjustments are needed.
  • In some cases, administration of synthetic ACTH can help control cortisol production, especially in dogs with pituitary-dependent Cushing's disease.
  • In addition to medications to control cortisol production, supportive therapy may need to be provided to treat secondary symptoms, such as skin infections or digestive problems.

Surgical intervention

  • Adrenalectomy: In dogs with adrenal-dependent Cushing's disease, where there are tumors in the adrenal glands, surgery to remove the affected glands (adrenalectomy) may be recommended. This procedure can help control excessive cortisol production and relieve the symptoms of Cushing's syndrome.
  • Pituitary surgery: In cases of pituitary-dependent Cushing's disease, surgery to remove the tumor in the pituitary gland may be an option in certain cases. However, this procedure is more complex and less common than adrenalectomy.

What happens if Cushing's in dogs is not treated?

As the disease progresses, excess cortisol in the body can cause damage to multiple organs and systems. This can result in health problems such as diabetes mellitus, high blood pressure, kidney disease, liver disease, severe muscle weakness, recurrent skin infections, as well as an increased risk of developing cardiovascular disorders and metabolic diseases. Additionally, untreated Cushing's syndrome can significantly reduce a dog's quality of life due to debilitating symptoms and the possibility of serious complications.

Tips for caring for a dog with Cushing's disease

  • It is crucial to follow the treatment recommendations provided by your veterinarian. This may include giving medications as directed, scheduling regular check-ups and follow-up tests, and adjusting treatment as needed.
  • It is important to maintain a balanced and calorie-controlled diet as well as the barf diet , preferably under the supervision of a veterinarian or canine nutritionist.
  • Make sure your dog gets regular exercise. Moderate exercise can help maintain a healthy weight and promote cardiovascular health.
  • Make sure you provide a comfortable and accessible environment for your dog. This may include a soft bed, easy access to fresh water, and a proper rest routine.
  • Keep skin clean and dry, and check regularly for signs of irritation or infection. Dental cleaning in dogs is also important to prevent dental and systemic problems.
  • Finally, give your dog with Cushing's disease the love and attention he needs. Spending quality time together can help strengthen the bond between you and your pet and improve their emotional well-being.

Diet for Cushing's disease in dogs

The diet should be designed to control symptoms and promote the overall health of the animal. A low-fat, low-calorie diet is recommended, with an emphasis on high-quality lean proteins and low-carbohydrate foods. The inclusion of dietary fiber can help regulate intestinal transit. It is important to avoid processed and high-sodium foods.

Can Cushing's syndrome in dogs be prevented?

It really cannot be prevented, however, there are measures that can be taken to maintain measures such as; a healthy weight through proper diet and regular exercise, schedule regular visits to the veterinarian to detect any health problems early, monitor the use of medications that may contribute to illness, reduce stress, and be alert to any changes in health and the dog's behavior to detect problems in time.


In summary, although it cannot be completely prevented, Cushing's syndrome in dogs can be managed and its impact minimized by regular health monitoring, maintaining a healthy weight, reducing stress, and following veterinary recommendations. Early detection and proper treatment are key to ensuring a better quality of life for pets affected by this condition.

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