Cushing’s isn’t only for people. Your dog is also at risk!

Cushing’s Syndrome (commonly known as Cushing’s) is a condition that afflicts people all over the world, but did you know that it can also affect our beloved dogs? In humans Cushing’s is characterised by symptoms including acute weight gain of the trunk and face. In this article we’re going to explain what causes Cushing’s Syndrome, the symptoms and how it can affect your dog.

What is Cushing’s Syndrome?

In dogs this commonly diagnosed endocrine condition results in high levels of cortisol from the adrenal glands. One of the things that cortisol does is it regulates the blood sugar level, electrolytes, fat metabolism and the immune system.

When your dog’s body needs cortisol, the pituitary gland sends out the adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) which encourages the adrenal gland to produce cortisol. Once enough cortisol has been produced the pituitary gland stops sending out ACTH.

If your dog is suffering from Cushing’s it means that their adrenal gland is constantly producing cortisol, whether or not there is enough.

If your dog is suffering from Cushing’s it means that their adrenal gland is constantly producing cortisol…

3 Causes of Cushing’s

There are 3 different causes of Cushing’s in dogs:

  • – Tumor in the pituitary gland
  • – Tumor in the adrenal gland
  • – Medication containing cortisone


The most common cause of Cushing’s is a tumour in the pituitary gland. The tumor is usually benign, but it can lead to overproduction of ACTH which, in turn, leads to an overproduction of cortisol. Another possible cause is a tumor in one of the adrenal glands, but this is less common.

Pro Tip! Occasionally, Cushing’s can be caused by medication containing cortisone, this form of Cushing’s is called Iatrogenic Cushing’s syndrome.

What are the symptoms?

If you’re concerned about what you should be looking out for, the symptoms can vary from dog to dog and tend to appear gradually. However, you may often observe the following symptoms:

  • – Excessive water consumption (polydipsia)
  • – Excessive urination (polyuria)
  • – Excessive appetite (polyphagia)
  • – Excessive panting
  • – Exercise intolerance
  • – A large or tensioned abdomen “pot belly”
  • – Loss of muscle mass
  • – Skin and coat changes
  • – Susceptibility to infections


In our next blog post we will take a deeper look at Cushing’s. Specifically we’ll be looking at the different tests that can be performed to help diagnose Cushing’s. If your dog, or one you know, has Cushing’s you’ll also be interested to read, in our next blog post, our detailed account of the types of treatments that are available to enrich your dog’s quality of life.

So, follow us on social media for updates when the next blog post is published.

I’m a veterinarian with almost 10 years experience in small animal practice. I’m originally from Sweden but moved to Copenhagen to fulfill my dream of becoming a vet. I’ve been working in Denmark, United Kingdom and back home in Sweden. Animals, especially dogs, has always been a big part of my life. Being a vet and helping animals and their owners, feels more like a privilege than a job.
Alvin, my Cavalier King Charles Spaniel follows me anywhere I go.

Caroline Edvinsson

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