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Hyperadrenocorticism in Dogs Cushing’s Disease

Dog with hyperadrenocorticism

What is Hyperadrenocorticism?

Hyperadrenocorticism arises from the overproduction of glucocorticoid hormones by one or both adrenal glands. In this scenario, it’s also known as Cushing’s disease. This condition can also come as the result of chronic or excessive administration of steroid medications, which is then classified as Cushing’s syndrome. In atypical cases, other adrenal hormones, such as sex hormones, may also be elevated.

Pituitary and adrenals glands in dogs

What Causes Hyperadrenocorticism?

1) Pituitary-dependent hyperadrenocorticism (PHD): This condition develops when a tumor of the pituitary gland produces high levels of adrenocorticotropic hormones (ACTH), which subsequently cause the adrenal glands to become overactive.

2) Iatrogenic hyperadrenocorticism: This condition is the result of prolonged or excessive administration of glucocorticoid medications. The adjective iatrogenic refers to an illness or disease brought on by medication or treatment.

Adrenal gland and kidney in dogs

Which are the Clinical Signs of Hyperadrenocorticism in Dogs?

Some of the signs include increased thirst, urination, and appetite. Symmetrical thinning or loss of hair may also be visible. Thinning or darkening of the skin, skin that bruises easily, panting, and heat intolerance. Urinary tract and skin infections are also possible symptoms.

Signs of hyperadrenocorticism in dogs

What are the Diagnostic Tests?

The diagnostic Cushing’s test for dogs is based on the history of prolonged exposure to steroid medication and can be confirmed through laboratory evidence of low adrenal gland function. Since no single clinical sign is specific to the disease, the diagnosis of Cushing’s disease requires laboratory testing and other diagnostic methods. These may include the ACTH response test, urine cortisol/creatinine ratio, and the modified high-dose dexamethasone test. Unfortunately, the results for dog Cushing’s disease tests may not be clear. This only adds to the challenge of accurately diagnosing this disease.

Which are the Treatment Options for Hyperadrenocorticism?

If your dog has Cushing’s syndrome, it can be treated by slow, tapered withdrawal of steroid medications. PHD can be treated with medication. If adrenal tumors are present, these may be treated by surgical removal or medication.

How Can I Take Care of a Dog with Hyperadrenocorticism?

Hyperadrenocorticism in dogs requires constant visits to the vet because this disease is complicated to treat. Your pet will need frequent adjustment of their medication dosage and constant laboratory testing.

The drugs used to treat this disorder are potentially toxic, such as Mitotane. It is very important to understand the side effects of the prescribed drugs. The medication may not reverse the clinical signs, and hyperadrenocorticism may decrease the life span of the dog.