My dog Shane recently had his annual physical exam. My veterinarian said that the blood and urine tests indicate that Shane may have Cushing's Disease. What is Cushing’s Disease and how could my dog have gotten it?
First, you are to be commended for having blood work and urine testing done when Shane has his annual physical. Yearly checkups on blood counts, serum chemistry values, and urine can give an early warning about a potential problem so it can be treated before it becomes serious. This is exactly what your veterinarian may have found in Shane's blood work.
Cushing's Disease, also known as hyperadrenocorticism, is a condition where the body is getting too much cortical - a type of steroid hormone. Steroids can be given by injection, orally or overproduced naturally. Too much cortisol is bad for the body. Damage can occur to the liver, kidneys, skin and cartilage in the joints, just to name a few. If your dog is overproducing his own cortisol, either the pituitary gland or adrenal gland is not functioning correctly. The pituitary gland is located at the base of the brain and is responsible for many different hormonal functions. One function is to 'tell' the adrenal gland (located near the kidneys) to produce cortisol. Cushing's Disease occurs when either the pituitary gland is 'telling' the adrenal glands to produce too much cortisol or the adrenal glands are overproducing cortisol despite what the pituitary gland is 'saying".
Treatment will range from chemotherapy to surgery, depending on which type of Cushing’s Disease Shane has. Likewise, the prognosis for Shane depends on the type and location of the disease, but Cushing's Disease may shorten a dog's life. People can get Cushing's Disease too, but there is absolutely no danger of a dog with the disease spreading it to a person, or even to another dog. The disease is not contagious.