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Cushing's... What is that?

Updated: Dec 12, 2019

There are so many different hormones racing around in the body at any given moment. This is the same for humans and animals alike. The balance of these hormones is what keeps our bodies functioning correctly and everything working as it it should. Cushing's is a disease that affects the adrenal glands and/or the pituitary gland. Lets talk about normal, before we go through abnormal.

Normal Process for steroid hormone production

The pituitary gland which is at the base of the brain recognizes that the steroid hormone in the body is low/high and makes adjustments. When it is low, the pituitary sends a signal to the adrenal glands to make more steroid and send it through the body. Then once there is enough or too much it sends another signal to stop the production. Cortisol helps to increase the blood sugar level as well as metabolism. It also helps to suppress the immune system when necessary. High levels of this can indicate stress in animals, but without this hormone animals can't survive.

What causes Cushing's

Cushing's a disease that causes an increase in the amount of steroid hormone in the body. In animals it is commonly associated with a tumor of the pituitary that stimulates too much production in the adrenal glands. But it can also be caused by adrenal gland tumors. Basically the pituitary has no off switch so steroid is continually produced. Therefore the body has a very high amount of circulating steroid and has no way to stop the signal to keep producing. Some signs of cushings that are the change in hair coat of animals. The hair becomes very curly as can be seen in the horse below. They will also drink more and urinate more.

How to test for Cushing's

There are a couple of different tests that can be run to see if your pet has cushing's. One test that is used is the ACTH stimulating test. ACTH is produced by the pituitary and it is what signals the adrenal to produce more steroid. You take a blood test to measure the cortisol level to start. You then stimulate the body with cortrosin which will stimulate ACTH production. Then you take another blood sample to measure cortisol in 30-60 minutes. Depending your results that can be interpreted by your veterinarian, this can determine if your pet has cushing's. You can also do a suppression test. Which instead of stimulating the immune system, you suppress it instead. This can also give you results to be interpreted by your vet.

How to treat Cushing's

Cushings is commonly seen in dogs and horses. There are a different of different drugs that can be used to treat this diesase. There is no cure, so these medications are a lifelong treatment to manage this disease. Most animals do really well with the medication. The different drugs are called vetoryl and pergolide depending on what animal you are treating. Seek advice from your veterinarian for the correct treatment plan for your animal and what works best.

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