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Cushing’s Disease

Cushing’s Disease (also called Hyperadrenocorticism) is a syndrome that results when there is an excess of cortisone exposed to the body over a long period of time. Cortisone, or more correctly “Cortisol,” is a hormone produced by the adrenal glands which are located atop the kidneys. Cortisol is stored in the adrenal gland and is released in times of stress where it helps our bodies prepare for a “fight or flight” situation. It adjusts our metabolism by mobilizing fat and sugar and by retaining sodium and water. If the body is exposed to this hormone continually, instead of during short stressful periods only, the state of break down becomes debilitating.

In the normal body, the pituitary gland, located at the base of the brain, can detect when cortisol levels in the blood are declining. In response, the pituitary secretes a stimulating substance, called “ACTH,” which causes the adrenal gland to release more cortisol. When the pituitary gland detects that cortisol levels are again appropriate, it stops its stimulatory message. You can think of the pituitary gland as a sort of a thermostat for cortisol.

Cushing’s Disease is caused three ways:
(1) A small pituitary adenoma (generally benign) causes the pituitary to secrete too much ACTH,
(2) A large adrenal gland tumor (frequently malignant) causes the adrenal gland to produce too much cortisol, or
(3) There has been an overuse of common cortisone medications used for allergies or arthritis.

Your pet might be experiencing several of these symptoms: excessive thirst and/or urination, ravenous appetite despite muscle wasting, a pot-bellied appearance, hair loss on the trunk or poor hair growth, recurrent skin sores or blackheads and possibly even Calcinosis Cutis, a disorder where calcium deposits occur within the skin. Other symptoms include hypertension, thinning of the skin, lethargy, bruising, heat intolerance, reproductive failure and excessive panting or licking.

We used the ACTH Stimulation Test to diagnose your animal’s condition. Determining whether your pet’s disease is due to the adrenal gland or the pituitary gland will require additional blood tests or an abdominal ultrasound. Removal of an adrenal gland tumor is possible, although the risks of the procedure are very high. However, the removal of a pituitary gland tumor is very difficult if not impossible.

An alternative to surgery is medical management with oral medicines such as Vetoryl which contains trilostane. Although daily administration of Vetoryl does not offer a medical cure for Cushing’s Disease, it may allow the disease to by managed, therefore giving your pet a better quality of life.

The information listed here is for information only and is no way intended to be used to diagnose or treat your animal. Your animal MUST be seen and diagnosed by a licensed Veterinarian.