Cushing’s disease is a medical condition that affects dogs, and it can lead to serious health complications like diabetes mellitus, kidney failure, and pancreatitis. Furthermore, this disorder carries an increased risk for blood clots and high blood pressure.

Dogs with Cushing’s disease are treated with medication that decreases cortisol production by the adrenal glands, helping to alleviate some symptoms. Unfortunately, treatment isn’t a cure and unfortunately, many animals succumb to complications caused by this condition. The prognosis for Cushing’s disease is dismal; unfortunately, died from complications associated with it is unfortunately all too common.

Cushing’s disease can take on different forms, each treated differently. The most prevalent form, accounting for around 85% of cases, is pituitary-dependent hyperadrenocorticism (PDH).

PDH occurs when a tumor develops in the pituitary gland, producing an excessive amount of ACTH and stimulating the adrenal glands to produce cortisol. Up to 15% of Cushing’s dogs are affected by tumors in one or both adrenal glands – responsible for producing cortisol production – due to this overproduction.

Diagnosing Cushing’s disease is most accurately done by testing your dog’s ACTH level in their blood. Your vet can use either an ACTH stimulation test or a low-dose dexamethasone suppression test to pinpoint the source of their condition. If they suspect a tumor on an adrenal gland, an ultrasound may be performed to confirm whether it is benign or malignant.

Other tests used to confirm or rule out Cushing’s disease include urine cortisol to creatinine ratio, full chemistry panel, and complete blood panel. These can help determine the severity of your dog’s symptoms and monitor medication effectiveness when treating Cushing’s.

Trilostane – Trilostane is the most commonly prescribed medication for dogs with pituitary-dependent hyperadrenocorticism (PDH). It works by blocking receptors on cells in your dog’s adrenal glands that stimulate them to produce cortisol production.

Many dogs find this medication effective, yet some can be adversely affected. Some dogs may experience diarrhea, hair loss, nausea, and vomiting; if your pup experiences these side effects your vet will recommend a different medication.

Lysodren – Lysodren is an off-label drug approved by the FDA to treat cancer, but it may also be beneficial in Cushing’s disease. It works by destroying layers of your dog’s adrenal gland producing cortisol; however, there are side effects that require close veterinary monitoring for safety.

Mitotane – Mitotane is an FDA-approved medication to treat tumors on your dog’s adrenal glands, but it may be difficult to administer and requires close veterinary monitoring. Available in tablet and injection forms, mitotane can be given once or twice daily depending on individual dog requirements.

Most patients with Cushing’s disease will enjoy a good quality of life if diagnosed and managed promptly. Without treatment, however, it can cause chronic relapses or even lead to death. Fortunately, there are medications available that are effective in curing this condition.