Cushing’s Disease (Hyperadrenocorticism)

Pebbles, our blog dog, is a female GWP in Seattle, WA originally from Korea, who is ready to be adopted

Adrenal Gland function and Control

A dog’s hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis is a complex set of influences and interactions that provide a balance of positive and negative feedbacks to maintain normal cortisol levels in the dog’s body. When the body is stressed, a positive feedback is sent to the brain to initiate release of cortisol. The anterior pituitary gland in the brain triggers the release of adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) to the adrenal cortex. Within the adrenal cortex, the zona fasciculata releases cortisol. When cortisol levels in the dog’s body are high, they act as negative feedback on the pituitary gland decreasing ACTH and cortisol release.

Causes of Cushing’s Disease

Pituitary-Dependent Hyperadrenocorticism (PDH)

Signs and Symptoms

Regardless of type, clinical signs of Cushing’s disease are essentially the same. Symptoms are often mistaken for common signs of aging. Owners usually notice increased appetite, increased water consumption, and increased urination. Common signs and symptoms are known as “the 7 P’s.” Dogs with Cushing’s disease may also show heat intolerance, lethargy or lack of activity, muscle weakness and atrophy, recurrent urinary tract infections, alopecia (hair loss), thin, fragile skin, bruising, and secondary demodicosis (mange) .

Pyoderma and increased pigmentation in a dog with Cushing’s Disease (Photo credit Katherine Irwin, DVM, Veterinary Dermatologist)
Pot-belly and Pyoderma in dog with Cushing’s disease (Photo credit Katherine Irwin, DVM, Veterinary Dermatologist)

Diagnosis

Any patient suspected of Cushing’s disease needs to be assessed through a detailed history and physical examination and preliminary lab work including a complete blood count (CBC), serum chemistry profile, and urinalysis. Findings consistent with canine HAC suggest further endocrine testing is needed to arrive at a specific diagnosis of Cushing’s disease.

  1. The urine cortisol:creatinine ratio (UC:CR) is a very sensitive test and should be performed to rule out HAC. It provides a cortisol measurement over time. A urine sample is collected by the owner at home to avoid stress-related cortisol elevations caused by hospitalization.

Treatment

Not all dogs with Cushing’s disease need to be treated at the time of diagnosis. The benefits of treatment in dogs without significant clinical signs or complications must be weighed with the potential complications and cost of treatment.

Prognosis

Owners need to be aware of the likelihood of lifelong therapy. Many geriatric dogs with Cushing’s disease die of unrelated causes brought on by aging. Cost of medication and constant veterinary check-ups and testing can be difficult to afford. Survival time, estimated to be two years on average, is probably a direct effect of concurrent diseases and the complications common to HAC patients. Approximately 15–20% of PDH patients exhibit neurological signs due to their pituitary tumor increasing in size over time. Over 80% of untreated HAC patients become hypertensive and 5–10% of dogs additionally have diabetes.

PEBBLES, OUR FEATURED BLOG DOG

Pebbles, in Korean means “if you bring me home, you will be happy forever” (fictitious, so no reason to Google)

Donation News from our Friend and Donor, Lottie Long Legs

Lovely Alfie card

About Us

National GWP Rescue is a nationwide rescue program whose volunteers work tirelessly to provide funding, foster homes, medical care and training for GWPs found in shelters, animal control facilities and to those GWPs whose current owners are unable to provide a suitable situation.

National German Wirehaired Pointer Rescue

Click here to donate to NGWPR

--

--

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
NGWP rescue

NGWP rescue

We believe that the more we educate people the more likely we are to accomplish our mission of matching homeless GWPs with loving owners.