Hyperadrenocorticism or Cushings Disease is a common condition in older dogs, the symptoms can mimic an early aging process so it is often missed. The illness is treatable and the dog can have a much better quality of life when medicated.
The disease is usually caused by a tumour either in the pituitary gland which is located near the brain or a tumour in the adrenal glands which are located near the kidneys.
The third cause can be the treatment of other diseases with corticosteroids which can induce the symptoms of Cushings disease
85% of Cushings disease is the result of pituitary tumour, the tumour is usually small and slow growing but sends continuous signals to the Adrenal glands to keep producing corticol hormones, in a normal dog when the correct level has been reached the glands stop producing the hormone,in a Cushings dog the pituitary gland continues to ask the Adreanal glands to produce more.
The Adrenal gland tumour is less common but the results are the same, the continuous production of corticol hormones
Symptoms of Cushings are many and varied, they appear slowly and progress slowly hence they mimic the aging process
The most common are :
previously housetrained dogs may begin to have “accidents”
food stealing, excessive hunger
loss of muscle
bony,skull-like look to the head
tiredness,reluctance to walk
thinning hair or baldness
thin,wrinkled or dark coloured skin
bruised skin, slow healing of cuts
susceptability to infections, especially urinary or skin infections
diabetes,pancreatitis or seizures
Dogs with allergies or arthritic dogs may seem to improve due to the corticosteroid their body is producing
If your whippet is drinking lots more, has increased appetite and coat is thinning then Cushings may well be the problem. A visit to your vet is necessary, there are tests that can be done to diagnose the disease.
Treatment will depend on the overall health and age of the patient , for dogs with severe arthritis for example if the Cushings is treated the inflammation will become much worse and it may be kinder to live with the Cushings in these cases
There are a few drugs that can be used depending on the type of Cushings and the heath of the patient, these options will be discussed with you by your vet
If left untreated Cushings will progress and the dog will become prone to many infections,possibly develop hypothyroidism,pancreatitis,heart failure,blood clots and liver or kidney failure
Cushings disease can be managed and the dogs quality of life much improved, but it requires some commitment on the owners behalf to keep the dog stable and his quality of life good