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How is Cushing's Disease in Dogs Treated?

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  • Written By: Jacob Queen
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 08 November 2016
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Therapy for Cushing's disease in dogs is generally focused on lowering the amount of cortisol produced in the pet's adrenal glands. Medications are the primary way of doing this, and they normally work by either suppressing the adrenal gland or actually damaging cells in the gland so that it doesn't function as well. Veterinarians may also choose to use surgery, and this approach is more common for dogs that have adrenal tumors.

Cushing's disease in dogs is an illness related to overproduction of cortisol. Sometimes the problem is caused directly by an adrenal malfunction, but usually it results from an overactive pituitary gland, which makes the adrenal gland respond and overproduce. When the disorder is diagnosed, doctors may have a bit of trouble determining which issue is responsible, but sometimes the actual cause doesn't really matter that much in terms of treatment.

The signs of Cushing's disease in dogs can be a bit hard for people to recognize. Dogs who suffer with this disorder usually become much thirstier and hungrier, and these signs usually don't cause much alarm for the average dog owner. Sometimes the dogs will lose bladder control or get urinary infections, which are symptoms of many other disorders. The most noticeable sign is when the dogs begin losing their hair, which usually happens later in the progression of the disease.

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In order to diagnose Cushing's disease in dogs, the veterinarian will normally start with a simple blood test. He will be looking for abnormally elevated levels in the animal's blood chemistry. Sometimes this isn't sufficient, and even when it is, there is no way to know which kind of Cushing's disease the animal is suffering with. In order to get a better idea of what's going on, the vet may do an ultrasound on the dog and look for a tumor or swelling around the adrenal gland.

Once the diagnosis is made, the treatment is usually pretty straightforward. Regardless of the cause, the most common treatments focus on medication because it works without putting the dog through the distress of surgery, and it normally works regardless of the cause. A lot of dogs that get diagnosed with this disorder are elderly anyway, and surgery could potentially be more difficult for them to handle. Depending on a variety of factors, vets may occasionally choose to do surgery, but this would normally be a choice of last resort.

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