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Fat dog with cushing's disease

Cushing’s disease in dogs, also known as hyperadrenocorticism, is a condition that occurs when a dog’s body produces too much cortisol. This hormone is essential for managing stress, weight, and infections, but in excess, it can lead to serious health issues.

Predominantly affecting middle-aged and older dogs, Cushing’s disease can be challenging to diagnose because its symptoms often resemble those of other conditions.


Cushing’s disease primarily stems from an issue within the adrenal glands, which are located near the kidneys, or from a problem in the pituitary gland at the base of the brain.

In either case, the end result is an overproduction of cortisol, leading to a range of health complications. Understanding this condition is vital for timely and effective management, enhancing a dog’s quality of life.

Signs and Symptoms of Cushing’s Disease

Dogs with Cushing’s disease typically exhibit a variety of symptoms that can be mild initially and become more noticeable over time. Key signs include:

  • Increased thirst and urination: Dogs may ask to go outside more frequently and have accidents in the house.
  • Increased appetite: Affected dogs may seem constantly hungry and beg for more food.
  • Hair loss and thinning skin: Hair may thin out, particularly on the body and not the head or legs, and the skin can become thin and bruise easily.
  • Pot-bellied appearance: A classic symptom where the dog’s belly becomes distended.
  • Lack of energy: Dogs might appear lethargic or less active.
  • Muscle weakness: Pets may have trouble jumping up or maintaining activity

Treatment of Cushing’s Disease

Treatment options for Cushing’s disease in dogs depend on the underlying cause of the condition:

Medical Management

Most dogs are treated with medication. Drugs such as trilostane (Vetoryl) or mitotane (Lysodren) are commonly used to control cortisol production. These medications require careful monitoring by a veterinarian through regular blood tests.

Surgical Options

If a tumor on the adrenal gland is causing the Cushing’s disease, surgical removal of the tumor may be an option. This is a more invasive procedure and is typically recommended based on the location and size of the tumor.

Ongoing Monitoring

Regular veterinary visits are essential for monitoring the treatment efficacy and adjusting dosages as necessary to avoid potential side effects.


With proper treatment, the prognosis for dogs with Cushing’s disease is generally good. It’s important to catch the disease early and to closely monitor the treatment. The life expectancy of dogs with well-managed Cushing’s disease can be close to normal, although ongoing medication may be required for life.

Living with Cushing’s Disease

Managing Cushing’s disease involves regular veterinary appointments and strict adherence to prescribed treatments. Owners should monitor their dog’s symptoms, dietary intake, and overall behavior, adapting care routines to support their pet’s health. Encouraging gentle exercise and maintaining a healthy diet are crucial.

Choosing a Veterinarian

Selecting the right veterinarian is critical for effectively managing a dog with Cushing’s disease. Look for a clinic with experience in treating endocrine disorders and a team that communicates clearly about treatment plans and expected outcomes.


Cushing’s disease in dogs requires careful attention and management but with the right approach, affected dogs can lead comfortable and active lives. Early detection and treatment are essential to managing the health complications associated with this disease.

Further Reading

For more information on Cushing’s disease and other canine health issues, consider the following resources:

Thank you for your interest in our Cushing’s disease dog health article. Be sure to check out the many comprehensive articles on our Dog Health Problems home page.

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