Cushing's is more often seen in older dogs and in smaller breeds of dog. Hair loss, pot-belly, skin diseases, changes in behaviour, frequent urination and a ravenous appetite are some of the most noticeable signs.
Cushing’s is usually seen in older dogs. Small breed dogs are more likely to develop the disease. The most common signs of the disease are very similar to those associated with the normal ageing process. This can make it difficult to diagnose and later monitor. It is always a good idea wherever possible to keep a note of the changes you see in your dog’s habits, behaviour and appearance.
Not all dogs will react to the disease in the same way and your dog may not necessarily display all of these signs.
If you become concerned with your dog’s welfare, you should consult your veterinary surgeon immediately.
Your veterinary surgeon will initially suspect Cushing’s syndrome based on the clinical signs your dog is showing. You may have taken your dog for a check up because you have noticed that it is drinking and urinating more than usual. Your veterinary surgeon may have noticed a change in your dog’s appearance, such as a prominent “pot belly”. Sometimes, the results of a routine blood test may lead your veterinary surgeon to suspect this condition.
In most cases, the changes in your dog’s appearance and behaviour caused by Cushing’s occur very gradually, making them easy to overlook.
Once your veterinary surgeon suspects Cushing’s, he/she will need to perform blood tests to confirm the diagnosis. A blood test to assess your dog’s general health is also recommended.
You might remember that the concentration of cortisol in the blood of both healthy dogs and dogs with Cushing’s fluctuates greatly throughout the day. It is for this reason that a diagnosis cannot be confirmed by just one measurement of cortisol. The two tests that are used to confirm a diagnosis of Cushing’s are called the ACTH stimulation test and the low-dose dexamethasone suppression test. It may be necessary to perform both tests.
In the ACTH stimulation test, blood is taken to measure cortisol before and after your dog is given a synthetic version of the hormone, ACTH. This test assesses how well your dog’s adrenal glands control the production of cortisol.
You will need to leave your dog with your veterinary surgeon for a few hours or for the day. Your veterinary surgeon may also elect to perform a test to identify whether your dog has a pituitary or an adrenal tumour.