What is Cushing’s Disease (Hyperadrenocorticism)?

Cushing's Disease Defined Mt. Carmel Animal Hospital

The presence of Cushing’s disease may leave your dog feeling fatigued

Cushing’s disease or hyperadrenocorticism refers to the overproduction of cortisol in canines. Cortisol is the chemical that impacts how humans and animals respond to stress. Cortisol also controls weight, fights infections, and keeps glucose levels in check. Too much cortisol can be problematic as well as too little. Cushing’s, also known as hypercortisolism or hyperadrenocorticism, can be challenging for a veterinarian to diagnose. It takes on the same symptoms of other conditions or illnesses. For this reason, it’s vital to take note of any changes in your canine companion and share these changes with one of our veterinarians. Let’s look at some symptoms of Cushing’s disease, how our veterinarians would diagnose it, and the most effective way to treat it. 

Symptoms of Cushing’s Disease

This syndrome usually affects middle-aged or older canines. You should take note if your canine companion seems hungrier or thirstier than ever before. Your dog urinating a lot could also be a sign that something is amiss. Hair loss, thin and fragile skin, and an enlarged stomach could also be warning signs. It would also be best if you paid close attention to if your dog seems fatigued, pants a lot, or if he or she keeps getting skin infections. There are also two types of Cushing’s syndrome:


There isn’t one specific test to detect Cushing’s disease only. One of our veterinarians will perform lab work that will check your pet’s urine and blood. These tests will pick up on diluted urine, urinary tract infections, or problems with specific enzymes in the liver and bones. We may also do an ultrasound which will allow our veterinarians to visualize the adrenal glands to look for abnormalities or tumors. If the results suggest that Cushing’s disease may be present, a veterinarian will follow up with two tests, which are:

  • ACTH Stimulation Test – Tests how well the adrenal gland works in response to a hormone called ACTH, which produces cortisol. A vet will take blood samples before and after your pet gets a dose of ACTH to see how the hormone affects him or her. 
  • Low dose dexamethasone suppression (LDDS) Test – Looks at how your canine companion’s body responds to an engineered or synthetic version of cortisol called dexamethasone. A vet will then examine the before and after blood samples to see if there are any differences. 


If this syndrome is caused by a tumor on your pet’s adrenal glands, surgery will be necessary to remove it. If this is not the case, your pet can (and should be) living a healthy and active life with medication to help. For Cushing’s syndrome caused by a pituitary gland, the most common medicine is trilostane or Vetoryl, which will curb the excess cortisol associated with Cushing’s syndrome. Your dog will need routine blood tests to monitor the cortisol levels. This will ensure that your dog’s dosage is sufficient and the medication is working appropriately.

Here at Mount Carmel Animal Hospital, We’ll Treat Your Pets Like Family!

Mount Carmel Animal Hospital has been serving the Northern Baltimore/Southern York community for over 30 years and is proud to be an independently operated, small animal practice committed to excellence in veterinary medicine and client service. From grooming to wellness services, along with Canine Life Skills Training Courses, and surgical procedures, we have the expertise that will best serve the needs of you and your pet. Contact us at 410-343-0200 and follow us on Facebook!

This entry was posted on Friday, May 14th, 2021 at 2:55 pm. Both comments and pings are currently closed.