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Cushing's Disease

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Many dog owners are probably unaware that some dogs can suffer from Cushing’s Disease – a disease normally only associated with humans.

Cushing’s Disease is a complicated medical problem involving the body’s hormonal system.  The cause of the problem can be either at the level of the pituitary gland, which is situated at the base of the brain, or at the adrenal glands, which are in the abdomen near the kidneys.  The end result is that the body produces excess amounts of steroid hormones, which get into the blood stream and cause a variety of clinical signs.

The most common symptoms are increased appetite/thirst, a thinning of the skin, hair loss, urinating frequently, a “pot bellied” appearance, lethargy and an increased susceptibility to other infectious diseases, although not all cases show all the symptoms.  If your dog has any of these symptoms you should make an appointment at your vets to have your dog fully examined.  The reason for this is that these symptoms could be the start of another underlying problem and Cushing’s Disease in itself can also trigger other problems, for example diabetes.

Diagnosis involves your pet undergoing multiple blood tests.

There are two forms of Cushing’s Disease – Pituitary and Adrenal.  Pituitary is the most common form of the disease and occurs due to the development of a slow growing tumour in the pituitary gland.  Adrenal occurs when a tumour producing large amounts of cortisol develops in one or possibly both of the adrenal glands.  Both tumours result in excessive amounts of cortisol in the blood and over time, the clinical signs of Cushing’s Disease will develop.

Treatment for Cushing’s Disease can, in some cases, include surgery, or more likely, a new medicine called Vetoryl.  This medicine is not cheap but is proving to be a massive improvement on previous medicines, which had many unwanted side effects and were difficult to dose correctly.

Total cure is unlikely but Cushing’s Disease is controllable using Vetoryl.  Your vet will need to monitor your dog closely for the first three months on treatment and then at regular intervals thereafter.  As a result your pet should have a good quality of life for many years to come, which was not the case only a few years ago.

For more information on Cushings Disease, visit

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