November 25, 2020

My Dog Has Cushings- Now What?

By Robert Hudson


This is Lou, my roommate’s 11 year old puggle who has Cushings disease.  He inspired me to learn more about this disease and share the information.  I researched this on the internet and spoke to two veterinarians who I have known for a few years: Dr Jessica Vogelsang and Jean Hofve Dvm.


What is Cushings?

Cushings is when your dog’s body  makes to much of a hormone called cortisol which the dog uses to fight infections, control weight and keep blood sugars in line.  If there is too much or too little it can cause health problems. It is caused by a tumor in either Pituitary gland at the base of the brain, (the most common form)  or in an Adrenal gland located on top of the kidneys. The tumor is usually pea sized, but if it is large it cause much more serious problems. In more rare cases they may be a tumor in both glands.  Another form iatrogenic Cushing’s syndrome, happens after a dog has taken steroids for a long time.

Are dogs in pain with cushings?I asked Dr. Vogelsang this:  “Cushing’s is caused by a tumor in either the pituitary gland or the adrenal gland, so diet isn’t considered to be a direct cause. Owners shouldn’t blame themselves if their pet is diagnosed- cancers are complex and multifactorial! Usually clients manage their pet’s Cushings with medications to improve their quality of life. It can cause a variety of uncomfortable symptoms like excessive drinking and urination, hair loss, thin skin, and increased susceptibility to infections. Treatment isn’t aimed at curing so much as managing those symptoms and improving quality of life.”

If left untreated,  dogs gradually become weaker, decrease of energy, an increased susceptibility to contracting infections (particularly urinary infections) and the skin is slow to heal after any injury. If the pea size tumor grows larger near the brain, it will press against the brain and become life threatening.


  • drinks water in excess
  • Appears to be hungry all the time
  • Frequent and long urinating
  • Hair loss
  • appearance of a pot belly
  • thinning skin
  • lethargic, no energy, no interest in play
  • Heavy panting
  • Reoccurring skin infections

A pot belly appearance is caused by swelling of the abdomen making the stomach look bloated, but its not bloat which is air in the stomach.  Dr Hofve explains:  “Bloat” is a medical condition unrelated to Cushings. A pot-bellied appearance, which IS a symptom of Cushings, may appear to be “bloating” but it isn’t. Bloating is AIR in the belly.  The abdominal muscles and fascia get weaker, giving that “pot belly” look. Of course they’re usually gaining weight too, which makes it worse.”

This happens because of an increase of fat within the abdominal organs and a stretching of the abdominal wall as the organs get heavier according to VCA

Frequent urination can be a problem if your dog does not have free access to the outdoors.  We live in a fenced heavily wooded property and the dogs can go outside at will through a doggy door. Even if your dog is housebroken, if he cannot get outside in time he will pee and has little control. If you live in an apartment and are away from home all day, your only alternative is to train him to use pee pads. Do not scold your dog.  It will only confuse him and stress him out making it worse not better!


If you suspect your older dog, (this disease is more common in senior dogs 6 years of age or older) then take it to your vet to be diagnosed and get the right treatment option.  The right medication and dosage is CRITICAL to give your dog as normal a life as possible for years to come.


If you are currently managing this disease for your dog, please share your experience in the comments below.



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