Cushing’s Disease in Dogs
Did you know that dogs can suffer from Cushing’s Disease just like people? The disease usually affects older dogs, and often mimics the signs of aging that all dogs exhibit. It is important to recognize the symptoms and receive a diagnosis so that your dog can be treated properly when possible. Since many owners mistake Cushing’s Disease for aging, they may prematurely euthanize their dogs. While Cushing’s Disease is not curable, the condition can often times be treated to extend your dog’s life and improve their comfort in their final years.
Cushing’s Disease is caused by a lifetime of excess of the hormone cortisol in the blood. In the simplest of terms, a dog is slowly poisoned by cortisol when the mechanisms in his body that are meant to prevent this excess fail. Normally, this excess is caused by pituitary tumors, adrenal gland atrophy or adrenal tumors, or veterinary interference.
As stated, symptoms of Cushing’s Disease mimics the general symptoms of aging, including increased appetite, increased drinking and urination (sometimes in the house), excessive shedding, weight gain, appearance of a pot-belly, and constant heavy panting. Since Cushing’s Disease is usually diagnosed in dogs aged ten or above, it is easy to see why these symptoms can be mistaken for the usual aging process. What sets Cushing’s Disease apart from the symptoms of aging is the thinning of the skin. This thinning will in turn lead to an increased number of skin infections. In addition, dogs suffering from Cushing’s Disease will often develop firm lumps under the skin. In some severe cases of increased appetite, a dog may begin to guard food, begging, dumping over the trash to search for food. In a rather bizarre twist, dogs who previously suffered from allergies or inflammatory diseases may find relief due to the excess of cortisol.
While the disease can develop in all breeds, the most commonly affected breeds include: Poodle, Beagle, Boxer, Dachshund, German Shepherd, many Terriers, Golden Retriever, Labrador Retriever.
Diagnosing Cushing’s Disease is relatively simple. Simple blood tests are needed to determine if your dog has an excess of cortisol in his blood stream. If your veterinarian determines that your dog may be suffering from the disease, the next step is to x-ray the head and check for tumors on the pituitary gland or adrenal glands or atrophied adrenal glands. There are a few other tests that are sometimes used, including urinalysis, or multiple blood tests during the course of a day to determine changing levels of cortisol.
Depending on the cause of your dog’s Cushing’s Disease, there are a number of treatment options available. Since many dogs with the disease are elderly and may be suffering from several other disorders, treatment options may vary widely. For example, since increased cortisol levels can actually help dogs with inflammatory diseases, a dog with severe arthritis may go untreated for Cushing’s, as this can be far more humane. A dog suffering from pituitary tumors who is otherwise healthy may receive chemotherapy to treat the tumors.
Pituitary tumors are not usually removed surgically due to their small size and the location. However, if there are adrenal gland tumors, surgery may be an option. If the tumors are benign, these are frequently removed with surgery. If tumors are malignant or have already metastasized to other body parts, usually the liver or lungs, most owners opt for non-treatment. In addition, there are several prescription treatments available.
The goal of treatment is usually simply to make your dog more comfortable in their final days. Most dogs cannot be permanently cured of Cushing’s Disease, and since many of these dogs are already quite old, excessive treatment can make their remaining days unnecessarily uncomfortable. The key is to know when to say when. Make the best decision for your dog’s well-being and happiness.
Provided by Jamie Roberts of www.pet-super-store.com: Where you can find Dog Kennels
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