Cushing’s Syndrome: Symptoms and treatment

Is your pup suddenly drinking a lot of water or peeing more frequently. Did you notice the change in the shape of the belly of your pup or the falling of hairs from his body? This can be a sign of Cushing’s syndrome. Let’s know more about cushing’s syndrome. What are the symptoms and how it can be treated.


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What is Cushing’s Syndrome?

Cushing’s Syndrome occurs basically due to hormonal imbalance. The hormone cortisol is responsible for stress control, weight control, and many other metabolic functions. Too little cortisol can cause Addison’s disease and too much can cause Cushing’s Syndrome.

A related term Cushing disease or pituitary-dependent  Hyperadenocorticism arises from adenomatous enlargement of the pituitary gland, resulting in excessive ACTH (Adenocorticotrophin hormone) production. Therefore Overproduction of cortisol hormone is responsible for this syndrome.

It is a very common endocrine disease of dogs. Some breeds like miniature poodles, dachshunds, boxers, Boston terriers, and beagles are most susceptible among all dog breeds.

Cushing's Syndrome in Dogs

Major signs of Cushing’s Syndrome

  • There is a noticeable increase in the thirst and urination of dogs.
  • The dog will not be able to tolerate high temperatures and feel lethargic.
  • The belly will attain the shape of a pot ” pot-bellied “.
  • The dog will gain weight.
  • Loss of hair from the body. (How to manage shedding hairs)
  • Skin will become thin.

Sometimes you will notice mineral deposition on the skin of your dog andthis mineral deposition is called “calcinosis cutis“. This is a very rare symptom.

Types of Cushing’s Syndrome

1. Pituitary dependent – The pituitary gland is located at the base of the hypothalamus and the tumor in this gland cause this type of Cushing’s. This is the most common type with 80-90% of cases.

2. Adrenal dependent– Adrenal gland is present on both kidneys and adrenal dependent Cushing’s presence of tumor in the adrenal gland and this is found in only 15% of cases.

3. Iatrogenic Cushing’s Syndrome – Iatrogenic Cushing’s is also called exogenous Cushing’s Syndrome. Exogenous means something from outside of the body is causing this. When there is the intake of synthetic glucocorticoid ( which increases cortisol level) for a longer period, this can cause iatrogenic Cushing’s. Your vet can prescribe glucocorticoid for the treatment of diseases like cancer, tumors in the brain, or some lung diseases, etc.

cortisol effects in the crushing syndrome diseases

Diagnosis of Cushing’s Syndrome

There is no direct method to diagnose Cushing’s so far but the urine cortisol to creatinine ratio (UCCR) is a highly sensitive test to differentiate healthy dogs from those with Cushing’s, it is not highly specific because dogs with moderate to severe non-adrenal illness also exhibit increased UCCR ratio. Stress may also cause an increased ratio.

Confirmation of increased UCCR is done by

  • ACTH stimulation test
  • LDDS test – an IV low dose dexamethasone suppression.
  • Or oral LDDS test.
  • HDDS – high-dose dexamethasone suppression test indicates adrenal tumors.
dogs showing severe signs of diseases


Excess of steroids should be avoided.

Treatment of Cushing’s Syndrome

  • Medical treatment – It is a widely accepted method as it is less risky. Medical treatment is available for both pituitary or adrenal tumors.
  • Surgical treatment- If the tumor has not spread to other parts it is better to remove it surgically. In case of pituitary tumors medication is better as surgery is a risky option.
  • Radiation therapy.

Cushing’s syndrome is a lifelong condition but as a result of proper checkups and frequent examination dogs with Cushing’s can live a happy life. The medication can be changed according to the test results.

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