Cushing’s disease in dogs is a condition where the adrenal glands overproduce certain hormones. The adrenal glands regulate things like cortisol which is necessary to maintain life. A dog with Cushing’s disease could present with malignant (cancerous) or benign (non-cancerous) adrenal tumors. As you might guess, the malignant form of the disease presents the worst outcome.

However, there are dogs diagnosed with Cushing’s who go on to live long lives. The trick is seeking help from a licensed veterinarian who can offer suggestions on how to best manage the disease. This disease tends to appear in smaller, older dogs.

Signs of Cushing’s Disease in Dogs

Cushing’s disease can present itself in a number of ways. You may notice the following symptoms in your dog:

  • Increased thirst
  • Frequent Urination
  • Bigger appetite
  • Less activity or reluctance to exercise
  • Lots of panting
  • Thin skin
  • Alopecia (hair loss)
  • Skin Infections

Cushing’s Disease (also called hypercortisolism and hyperadrenocorticism) has symptoms similar to other conditions.

Symptoms of Cushing’s disease can be subtle, developing slowly over time. As our dogs age, it’s easy to shrug off minor things as a simple sign of aging. If no treatment plan is offered early on, the ongoing effects of too much cortisol in the body will deteriorate the dog’s health. If nothing is done until the signs are overt and obvious, it could be too late.

What causes cushing’s in dogs?

The first thing you need to know is that there are two types of Cushing’s that can affect dogs. The first one is pituitary dependent and the second is adrenal dependent.

Pituitary Dependent

Pituitary dependent Cushing’s disease in dogs is the most commonly seen. This occurs when a tumor grows on the pituitary gland.

Adrenal Dependent Cushing’s in Dogs

The adrenal glands are located above the kidneys and are responsible for the “fight or flight” stress response. They play a large function in regulating how the dog responds to stress and balances digestion, immune function, and energy.

A small number of dogs will develop tumors on the adrenal glands accounting for roughly 15% of dogs with adrenal dependent Cushing’s disease.

Cushing's disease in dogs can be caused by the pituitary or adrenal glands.

Diagnosis and Treatment Options

It’s important to take your dog for a thorough examination anytime you notice unusual behavior or symptoms in your dog. The veterinarian will assess for a variety of possible reasons and will likely perform the following tests:

ACTH Stimulation Test

This test measures how well the adrenal glands are working by subjecting them to a hormone called ACTH. This hormone is supposed to prompt the adrenal glands to create cortisol.

Low Dose Dexamethasone Suppression Tests

This test is used to determine how well your dog’s body responds to synthetic cortisol.

If your dog is diagnosed with Cushing’s disease, the veterinarian will go over the most common options. These include surgery to remove tumors from the adrenal glands or medications. While medications will be required for the rest of the dog’s life, they can help the dog live a long and healthy life.

READ NEXT: 5 Common Causes of Malassezia Dermatitis in Dogs That Could Spell Trouble


Nobody wants to see their dogs get sick. As our dogs age, we wonder what might be in store for them. After reading this post, I hope you were able to gain some insight and hope. As always, I recommend a good veterinarian that you can trust. This post is not meant to diagnose or suggest treatment options. However, I hope you were able to find it informative and useful.

Was you dog diagnosed with Cushing’s disease? Feel free to leave a comment below. If you liked this post, please take a minute to share.


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