My dog appears to have almost all the symptoms of Cushings. He is being monitored by our Vet who is making the possible diagnosis step by step. What is so distressing is my concern that our beautiful boy is in pain or at the very least experiencing awful discomfort. He is just not himself. Can you tell me if dogs with Cushings are suffering?
Cushing's Disease is the most-often-used name for hyperadrenocorticism, or the body producing an overabundance of cortisol, which is a corticosteroid.
It is most often diagnosed in middle-aged and older dogs but the actual symptoms of the disease can spend YEARS building up, and they are often mistaken for other things. Even vets can make the mistake of attributing the symptoms to other things and often do not arrive at a diagnosis of Cushing's Disease until many of the symptoms are present.
The disease is caused by a tumor on the pituitary gland, which is located at the base of the brain. The tumor causes the adrenal glands, which are located just in front of the kidneys, to produce too much cortisol. The disease can also be caused by a tumor actually on one of the adrenal glands. The tumors that cause Cushing's Disease are usually adenomas, which grow slowly and do not metastasize.
Whether it is pituitary-dependent or adrenal-dependent Cushing's you are dealing with, the symptoms will be the same. There are some breeds that are more prone to developing the disease but any breed or mix can develop it. Corticosteroids are very important to a correctly-functioning body. They regulate immunity, act as a natural anti-inflammatory, regulate metabolic processes of ALL cells in the body, maintain correct blood flow levels, the body cannot live without correct levels of corticosteroids in it.
One of the first early signs of the disease is increased thirst. Dogs that were impeccably housetrained may start to have accidents in the house. Often the owner and vet both mistake this symptom for a urinary tract infection. Corticosteroids can cause weight gain and can also cause fluid retention. It can lead to the dog having a pot-bellied look. This is because the cortisone causes the ligaments that support the abdomen to relax. Cushing's Disease can cause muscle shrinkage, particularly in the extremities, so the animal develops a spindly appearance. The shrunken muscles in the legs coupled with the larger body and abdomen can cause the dog to have diffuculty getting up and down or going up and down stairs because the smaller muscles don't have the strength that they had before shrinking. This is often mistaken for arthritis even though the dog is not in pain. The OUTWARD appearance is that the dog is having difficulty due to discomfort but that's not the case.
Cushing's causes very low energy, so the dog doesn't act like he or she normally would. Again, this is not a sign of pain, this is just because the dog doesn't have the energy levels needed to act normally.
There are now several different drugs that are used to treat the disease. Surgery is usually not an option. The four drugs that are most commonly used to treat Cushing's Disease are trilostane, lysodren, ketoconazole and L-deprenyl. Not all vets elect to treat early-onset Cushing's, in fact, a study that was done in 2000 or 2001 (can't remember which year) said that more than 50% of practicing vets do not treat if there are minimal symptoms because depending on the age of the dog, it will pass away from another cause before the Cushing's has any real effect on the animal.
I think your vet is absolutely going about this in the right way. If it were my dog, I would be happy with the step by step diagnostics. And as I stated above, your dog is not in any pain he just doesn't have the energy to be himself. Just love him and make him comfortable and be patient with his lack of energy and stamina until your vet comes up with a plan of attack.
No, I am not a vet. I have been to vet school, however but I did not finish. I found that I could not mentally handle having to euthanize animals. I have been an animal lover my whole life and besides having my own pets since before I could walk, I have been involved in dog, cat and reptile rescue for over 40 years now. (Wow! That's scary! Where DID the years GO? :D) I have also worked for vets both in private practice as a veterinary technician and in the pharmaceutical industry as a technical services administrative assistant.
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