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How to Treat Cushing's Disease in Dogs?

Dogs are essential parts of a family. They offer unconditional love and companionship, always ready to give a hug or an ear scratch when we need it the most. And now more than ever, dogs are becoming an integral part of families with children due in large part to their ability to act as “social lubricants” in the home by helping kids develop empathy, patience and responsibility. But what happens when your dog develops Cushing’s disease? It is devastating for all involved. You may be looking for the answers online to, “how to treat Cushing’s disease in dogs?”

But your search for this question ends here. We bring you the most comprehensive guide that will answer all your questions, including:

  • What’s Cushing’s disease in dogs?
  • What are the symptoms of Cushing’s disease in dogs?  
  • How common is Cushing’s disease in dogs?
  • How do you know if your dog has Cushing’s disease?
  • How long will a dog live with Cushing’s disease?
  • How to treat Cushing’s disease in dogs?
  • How to prevent Cushing’s disease in dogs?
  • How do dogs get Cushing’s disease?
  • How to test for Cushing’s disease in dogs?

And many more like these. So, let’s begin with the very first question.

What is Cushing's Disease in Dogs?

Cushing’s disease is a type of endocrine disorder that affects the dog’s adrenal glands and often their pituitary gland. In this disease, the adrenal glands produce too much cortisol, which causes several symptoms to arise. In addition, the pituitary gland produces too much of a hormone called Adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), which in turn stimulates the adrenal glands to produce cortisol even when it doesn’t need to.

Increased cortisol levels cause advanced symptoms of Cushing’s disease in dogs, such as hair loss, a pot-bellied appearance, muscle weakness and more. Let’s get to know about all these symptoms in the next section.

Symptoms of Cushing's Disease in Dogs

Cushing’s disease in dogs’ symptoms varies widely. Cushing’s disease in dogs signs and symptoms may vary from dog to dog slightly, but some of the most common signs and symptoms of Cushing’s disease in dogs include:

  • Increased drinking and urination
  • A “buffalo hump” on their back
  • Hair loss on their rump, thighs, groin and neck
  • A pot-bellied appearance

Some dogs might even have a symptom known as central obesity when the dog’s abdomen becomes enlarged and round in appearance. In addition, you might notice that your dog is beginning to show signs of muscle weakness and an increase in its appetite. These symptoms often begin slowly, but it is essential to be proactive about treating this disease to ensure that the high cortisol levels do not cause permanent damage. Some signs and symptoms to hold an eye fixed out for include:

  • Fatigue
  • Weight gain (usually around the stomach and chest)
  • Lack of energy or enthusiasm
  • Increased thirst and urination, especially at night
  • Skin thinning and bruising easily
  • A visible “potbelly” due to an enlarged abdomen and fatty deposits in the abdomen

And there are some other Cushing’s disease dog neurological symptoms that you might not think of, but your dog may develop. For instance, many owners of dogs with Cushing’s disease report their pets scratching themselves more than normal. This behavior also comes under Cushing’s disease in dogs skin symptoms. So, it is vital to keep an eye out for excessive scratching before any advanced stages of Cushing’s disease in dogs can develop.

How to Treat Cushing's Disease in Dogs?

How Common is Cushing's Disease in Dogs?

Cushing’s disease in dogs is prevalent. According to one study, this endocrine disease affects around 2 percent of all dogs. This means, on average, 100,000 dogs in U.S. alone and millions around the world. The age of onset for Cushing’s disease in dogs is mainly between 6 and 10 years, but there can be some exceptions to this.

Now, let’s have a look at some of the dog breeds prone to Cushing’s disease more than others.

Boston Terrier

Boston Terrier canine breeds Cushing’s sickness possibilities are greater than different breeds of puppies. this is due to the fact they have a better occurrence of pituitary gland tumors, that is the maximum common motive of the disorder. Other factors that may make a dog more likely to develop Cushing’s disease include being older and being obese. And with Boston Terriers, being female seems to be a risk factor as well.


Boxer dog breeds Cushing’s disease is also very common. A boxer suffering from this condition may experience hair loss, weight gain and increased thirst, among other things. Although they are not in the top ten list of affected dog breeds when it comes to Cushing’s disease, Boxer dogs can develop this illness too and need to be watched.


Dachshund dog breeds Cushing’s disease often develop the illness after being on steroids for a long time. The longer they are given steroids, the higher their risk of developing this disease is.

And despite which breed your dog might be, he or she can still have Cushing’s disease if they are old and overweight. So, if your dog is always thirsty, drinking too much water and urinating too much as well, you might have a problem with Cushing’s disease on your hands.

How is Cushing's Disease in Dogs Diagnosed?

Cushing’s disease in dogs diagnosis is a bit tricky. It requires a few tests that may or may not have false positives and negatives. Depending on the dog, one or more of these Cushing’s disease dogs tests can be performed:

How to Test for Cushing’s Disease in Dogs?

  • Urinalysis
  • Urine Culture
  • Complete Blood Count (CBC)
  • Adrenal Functions Test

Let’s start with the first one.


A urinalysis measures the concentration of urine in the bladder using chemicals. It also measures pH levels, glucose and other things. This test can show signs of Cushing’s disease and kidney failure in dogs or diabetes mellitus.

Urine Culture

A  urine culture is completed to hit upon bacterial infections in the urinary tract region. The collection process for this test does not require anesthesia or sedation.


A complete blood count (CBC) is also essential in the determination of Cushing’s disease in dogs’ blood tests. It examines how many red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets are present in your dog’s body at any given time. If there are too many white blood cells, it could indicate an infection elsewhere in the body that has spread to the kidneys/bladder, or it could also be a sign of Cushing’s disease in dogs.

An adrenal functions test is used to determine whether the symptoms of Cushing’s disease in dogs are caused by problems with the pituitary gland or adrenal glands. If this test indicates that your dog has Cushing’s disease, surgery for removing the tumor is recommended.

How to Treat Cushing's Disease in Dogs?

Cushing's Disease Treatment for Dogs

Treatment for Cushing’s disease in dogs and prevention methods vary depending on how advanced the condition is and what symptoms your dog is having. We already discussed the testing above, so we will now focus on treatment and prevention methods.

Treatment for Cushing’s Disease in Dogs as per Type

Medication (In Case of Pituitary Tumor)

If your dog has Cushing’s disease due to a pituitary tumor, medication is recommended. Relying at the goals of remedy, mitotane or lysodren are pills that may be used. 

Medical Therapy (In Case of Adrenal Tumor)

If your dog has Cushing’s disease due to an adrenal tumor, medical treatment with a drug called trilostane can be attempted first before considering surgery.

Iatrogenic Cushing’s Disease Treatment in Dogs

Dogs that are suffering from Cushing’s disease due to prolonged use of corticosteroids for treating other illnesses need to be changed on to other medicines once they are diagnosed with the illness. Cortisone can no longer be used in these dogs, so it is vital to use other drugs instead.

Surgery as per Type

A surgical procedure is often done for dogs with either pituitary or adrenal tumor. A minor operation will remove the tumor, and it must be performed by a veterinary surgeon who specializes in endocrine gland removal surgeries. In some cases, radiation might also be recommended.

Cushing's Disease in Dogs Prevention Methods

  • Keep your dog at a healthy weight. If your dog is obese, this will increase the risk of developing Cushing’s disease.
  • There are a lot of dog and other pet accessories you can acquire at any time from the Loobani shop.
  • Prevent Cushing’s disease by giving your dog regular checkups so it can be diagnosed with the illness as early as possible.
  • Give your dogs a healthy diet with a low amount of carbohydrates and fats.

As I mentioned, obesity is one of the most significant causes of Cushing’s disease in dogs. Make sure that you regulate what they eat to correspond to their weight and height ratio. Better yet, consult a vet about how much food per day they should have according to their breed/weight/age, etcetera.

How Long Will a Dog Live with Cushing’s Disease?

Dogs with Cushing’s disease can often lead a relatively normal life as long as the disease is caught and treated early. If left untreated, however, the dog’s health will gradually decline, and it may eventually die from the disease. However in trendy, puppies with this ailment, untreated, can stay among 2 to four years relying upon the severity.

How to Help a Dog with Cushing’s Disease?

Cushing’s Disease is a disease where the dog has too many cells in its body. One way to help prevent this disease is to make sure your dog is not obese or overweight. This can be prevented through diet. The most important thing you can do for a dog with Cushing’s disease is to get it diagnosed early on.

Many times, this disease goes unnoticed in dogs because the symptoms are not very obvious at first and then gradually worsen over time often. By the time people notice that something is wrong with their pets, they already have severe disease complications.

So, getting them diagnosed early on will help avoid this problem and increase their chances of surviving the disease. A simple blood test may be all it takes to identify whether your dog has Cushing’s disease or not. This is why you should not hesitate in case you be aware any unusual changes to  your dog’s conduct or eating habits.

How to Treat Cushing's Disease in Dogs?

What Do You Feed a canine with Cushing's ailment?

Since Cushing’s disease is often due to obesity, your best bet would be to give them a diet that provides just the right amount of energy. As per what you should feed a dog with Cushing’s disease, experts recommend commercial food that has less than 3% fat content.

In addition, this type of food should also not contain any artificial colors or flavors. Natural, cold-water fish is a good enough source of protein and omega-three fatty acids for them as well.

What Is the Prognosis for a Dog with Cushing’s Disease?

A dog with Cushing’s disease can live a normal life if it receives early treatment. However, if left untreated, the prognosis worsens because the affected dog will have to be given corticosteroids regularly just to keep it alive. Once that happens, its quality of life will deteriorate significantly because this drug has many side effects, which you can read about here. So, your best bet would be to bring your pet to a vet if you notice any slight change in its behavior.

Are Dogs with Cushing’s Disease in Pain?

There are some cases where Cushing’s disease in dogs may have the tendency to get abdominal tumors. Over time, these tumors can grow and cause pain for your dog. This is why early diagnosis is important so that it gets treated at an earlier stage when the tumor is smaller and has not caused any complications yet.

For example, if we talk about Stage 1 of this disease, then a treatment known as unilateral adrenalectomy might be recommended, which means removing just one adrenal gland from the affected dog. The diagnosis for this sort of surgery is superb, and maximum puppies make a complete recuperation.

The treatment plan for this disease varies from one dog to another, depending upon the severity of the problem. In some cases, medication may be prescribed by your vet, while in others, surgery might just do the trick. It is important that you follow all instructions given by your vet because there are many variables involved when it comes to treating Cushing’s disease in dogs.

Final Thoughts

In some cases, no treatment may be recommended if the symptoms only appear on a temporary basis and stop after some time. However, if a treatment is recommended, then its duration will depend upon how severe or complex your dog’s case is. For instance, if both adrenal glands have been removed from your dog due to this disease, it will have to be given medicine for the rest of its life. On the other hand, if just one gland has been removed, then it might need treatment for just six months to a year.

Cushing’s disease in dogs is a topic that I chose to write about because my dog, Buddy, has this disease. I want others to know more about it in case they ever encounter their dogs contracting the disease. In addition, if someone knows how to help your furry friend get better – whether through surgery or otherwise – it would make everything easier for you. It is important to me because not only does he mean a lot to me, but the article might also be able to help other people with their dogs.

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