Our expert says:
Cushing's disease is a problem where the body produces excessive amounts of cortisone. This may be because the adrenal glands (where cortisone is produced) is hyperactive, or because the pituitary gland in the brain is over stimulating the adrenal glands. It is a long-term illness typically and results in excessive weight gain, excessive appetite and excessive thirst. The dog may also lose hair over its abdomen and chest. The abdomen may become distended and the muscles may generally weaken. Ultimately, the entire body tends to deteriorate in physical condition, although this tends to happen over a very long period. Cushing's disease also makes dogs more likely to develop diabetes in the long run. I do generally recommend treatment, but it usually depends on the severity of the condition as well as the age of the dog. Underlying problems like arthritis and allergies may also become more evident once the Cushing's disease is treated and should also be taken into consideration.
The condition should first be confirmed with blood tests and possibly ultrasound (sonar) examination of the adrenal glands. The treatment involves tablets which are initially taken twice a day, until the appetite and drinking behaviour decrease, where after another blood test is performed to demonstrate that the condition is under control. This initial phase normally takes about seven to 11 days. Thereafter treatment will be continued once or twice a week, usually indefinitely.
Unfortunately, the condition can also be slightly unpredictable. While the treatment is very effective in most dogs, in some dogs problems are encountered. Generally though, I do recommend treatment.
Dr Malan van Zyl
Veterinary Specialist Physician
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