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- What is Hyperadrenocorticism (Cushing's Disease)?
- Symptoms of Hyperadrenocorticism
- Diagnosis of Hyperadrenocorticism
- Help for Hyperadrenocorticism
What is Hyperadrenocorticism?
Hyperadrenocorticism is more commonly known as “Cushing's Disease”. It is characterized by overproduction of the hormone cortisol by the adrenal glands. The disorder is rare in cats and fairly common in dogs, particularly those 6 years and older. There are two types of hyperadrenocorticism, pituitary-dependent or adrenal-dependent.
There is no cure for hyperadrenocorticism, but early intervention is key to improving quality of life. Cushing's disease can be successfully managed for years at a time.
Symptoms of Hyperadrenocorticism
Hyperadrenocorticism has varying symptoms due to cortisol's effect on different organs. Large amounts of cortisol suppress the immune system, leaving dogs vulnerable to bacterial infections. Often, bladder infections are one of the first signs of the disorder. Other common symptoms include increased appetite, increased drinking (polydipsia) and increased urination (polyuria). Dogs that are housebroken may suddenly start to urinate around the house. Hair loss on the body, but not the head or legs is also common, as is a sagging stomach or “pot belly”.
Other possible signs of hyperadrenocorticism include weakness, an abnormal gait or stiffness of the legs, lethargy, changes in skin color and thinning skin.
Symptoms of hyperadrenocorticism appear gradually and worsen over time. Many of the symptoms are mistaken for common aging issues, resulting in delayed treatment.
Diagnosis of Hyperadrenocorticism
There is no single test that can detect hyperadrenocorticism and it is often difficult to pinpoint and diagnose accurately. Diagnosis is made through a series of processes, including a thorough history, physical exam, and several different lab tests. Urine and blood analysis is often enough to provide initial evidence of hyperadrenocorticism, but further tests are usually required.
If hyperadrenocorticism is suspected, lab tests are performed to look for an increase in white blood cell count and for an increase of the liver enzyme ALP. Increased blood sugar and cholesterol may also be indicators of hyperadrenocorticism. Many times, x-rays are also taken to look for an enlarged liver or tumors near the adrenal glands. A diagnosis can only be made after a very detailed analysis of all the test results.
Help for Hyperadrenocorticism
Treatment for hyperadrenocorticism depends on the cause. If tumors are present, surgery and chemotherapy may be used. In most cases, medications are prescribed and closely monitored by a veterinarian. Regular blood tests are required to determine proper dosage. Vetoryl is the latest medication used to treat both types of hyperadrenocorticism. It stops the production of cortisol in the adrenal glands, however it does have several possible side effects including vomiting, weight loss, and diarrhea.
There are also homeopathic and herbal remedies that can help support dogs with hyperadrenocorticism. Dandelion supports normal adrenal functioning and contains vitamins and minerals important for hair health and growth. Astragalus helps to support balance in the adrenal glands and offers powerful immune system support. Natural products like Cushex Drops contain these herbs and other natural, homeopathic remedies specially selected to relieve Cushing's symptoms in pets. They can be used safely in pets of all sizes.