Hyperadrenocorticism (Cushing’s Disease)

Hyperadrenocorticism, also known as Cushing’s Disease, is caused by higher than normal production of cortisol in the system. This increased level can be triggered by a non-cancerous tumor located on the pituitary gland (located in the brain), or a non-cancerous or malignant mass on the adrenal gland(s) (located near the kidneys). Depending on the cause of the increase of cortisol, the appropriate management approach would be recommended by your veterinarian.

The most common signs of Cushing’s Disease include increased water intake, increased urination, weight gain, increased hunger, pot-bellied appearance, and alopecia (hair loss).

Cushing’s Disease is diagnosed with multiple blood tests, followed by radiographs and/or ultrasound. Due to large amounts of cortisol in the body, patients are also prone to urinary tract infections and a urinalysis may be recommended for evaluation.

Treatment options for Cushing’s Disease include lifelong oral medication, surgery or radiation depending on the cause of Cushing’s Disease. Oral medications are frequently used to manage pituitary dependent Cushing’s Disease, though radiation may also be used to shrink the size of a pituitary tumor and is noted as the most effective way to manage this type of Cushing’s Disease. Though oral medications may also be used with adrenal dependent Cushing’s Disease, surgery is often the best treatment option – removing the affected adrenal gland. After surgery the mass and gland are submitted for histopathology to determine if the mass is benign or malignant.

The prognosis for pituitary dependent Cushing’s Disease is usually good, with most patients returning to a fairly normal life. Adrenal dependent Cushing’s Disease prognosis is dependent on if the mass is benign or malignant, with surgery being curative for patients with benign masses.

It is important to discuss all treatment options with your veterinarian, as well as close monitoring of your pet during treatment of Cushing’s Disease.