My daughter’s dog has just been diagnosed with Cushing’s disease and she is really upset, as she doesn’t fully understand what this means. What does it mean for a dog and is there anything she should be doing to help?

Graham Finch advises…

Cushing’s disease is a condition where the body’s adrenal glands are stimulated to produce too much natural cortisol. This makes a dog drink more, pee more, eat more and develop a distended abdomen. In advanced cases, hair loss may also be a feature. Cushing’s is caused either by a small benign tumour at the base of the brain in the vast majority of cases or, much more rarely, by a tumour on the adrenal gland itself. It is possible to do some testing to find out which form is occurring, but around 90 per cent of cases are down to the pituitary (brain) form. Generally speaking, life expectancy is reasonable with the pituitary form and I’ve known dogs go on to live for years following diagnosis. However, the adrenal form of the disease sadly tends to be nastier and life expectancy is reduced, I’m afraid.

Treatment is in the form of a medication called Vetoryl (trilostane), which blocks the production of cortisol and thereby reduces the clinical signs – there is no cure as such. The dose of Vetoryl varies from dog to dog, so some further blood testing will be required at intervals to make sure an appropriate dose is being given. It is also worth getting your dog’s blood pressure checked, as dogs with Cushing’s may also be hypertensive – which if it turns out to be the case, can also be treated with tablets.

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