Cushing's syndrome ("hyperadrenocorticism") is a chronically debilitating hormone imbalance that can affect many species, humans included; we will be limiting our discussion to dogs and cats, however. Cushing's syndrome, also called Cushing's disease, results from excessive cortisol in the bloodstream and the symptoms all stem from long term over-exposure to this hormone.
FIRST WE WILL COVER DOGS
DOES YOUR DOG HAVE CUSHING’S SYNDROME?
There are many clinical signs associated with Cushing’s syndrome in the dog. These signs usually come on very gradually and, because of this slow onset, these changes are often written off as part of the normal aging process. The following is a list of common symptoms which an owner might observe in their pet at home.
DRINKING EXCESSIVELY / URINATING EXCESSIVELY / INCONTINENCE
HOW MUCH WATER CONSUMPTION IS NORMAL?
Each day a dog should drink about one cup of water for each ten pounds of body weight, though this can vary somewhat with environmental temperature and activity level. Dogs that truly have excessive water consumption will consume vastly more than this regularly.
Muscle protein is broken down in Cushing’s syndrome. The result may be seen as exercise intolerance, lethargy, or reluctance to jump up on furniture or climb stairs.
Another condition of the skin which may be observed is called Calcinosis Cutis, in which calcium deposits occur within the skin. These are raised, hard, almost rock-like areas which can occur almost anywhere on the body.
Some other notable findings might include: excessive panting and shortness of breath, urinary protein loss, infertility, extreme muscle stiffness (called “pseudomyotonia” - a very very rare symptom in Cushing’s disease), and high blood pressure.
Aside from the symptoms described above, advanced untreated Cushing's disease puts a dog at risk for the following serious problems:
WHEN CATS DEVELOP CUSHING’S DISEASE
In the cat, the clinical features of Cushing’s disease are similar to those in the dog: excess water consumption, muscle wasting, pot-bellied appearance, and thin coat. Cats also can develop a thinning and weakening of the skin to the point of spontaneous tearing or a peculiar curling-in of their ear tips, neither of which is seen in the dog. An important difference to note is that while only 10% of dogs with Cushing’s disease develop diabetes mellitus, 80% of cats with Cushing’s disease develop diabetes mellitus. Dogs with Cushing's disease drink excessively because their Cushing's disease makes them do so. Cats with Cushing's disease drink excessively because they are diabetic and their diabetes makes them do so. The 20% of cats with Cushing's disease that are not diabetic do not drink excessively. Diabetes in an animal with Cushing’s disease is very difficult to control until the Cushing’s disease is controlled.
For more information on Diabetes mellitus in cats, click here.
Page last updated:12/31/2018