Cushing’s disease (hyperadrenocorticism) is the overproduction of the hormone cortisol by the adrenal glands that are located in the belly near the kidneys.
Cushing’s disease occurs commonly in dogs, but is rare in cats. Most dogs with Cushing’s disease are about 6 years old or older but sometimes Cushing’s disease occurs in younger dogs. Cortisol affects the function of many organs in the body, so the signs of Cushing’s disease may be varied. Some of the more common signs of Cushing’s disease include hair loss, pot-bellied appearance, increased appetite, and increased drinking and urination called polydipsia and polyuria (PU/PD). Hair loss caused by Cushing’s disease occurs primarily on the body, sparing the head and legs. The skin is not usually itchy as it is with other skin diseases. If you pick up a fold of skin on a dog with Cushing’s disease, you may notice that the skin is thinner than normal. The pet may have fragile blood vessels and may bruise easily.
NB-Lifelong administration of a DDT derivative (Lysodren) is still commonly used for the mangement of this “syndrome” (first described by Harvey Cushing in 1932). I am not aware of any studies that document prolongation of life with this standard conventional therapy. Many of my patients have laboratory evidence (mainly elevated SAP) and other symptoms (clinical appearance, UTIs, etc.) of Cushings dis-ease. In my experience treating the entire animal (and not just the adrenal gland) is extremely satisfactory.–Dr. Jeff