To be honest, he’s become a lot like my husband.” Danny the Dachshund was 10 years old, had put on an extra 5 pounds, was losing his hair, slept all day and had to get up to pee during the night. Stealing a glance at the drowsy gentleman holding Danny in his ample lap, I got it. “So he’s just an ‘old dog,’ right, Dr. Ward?” For a second I didn’t know if she was referring to the spouse or the sausage dog. I went with the latter.
What is Cushing’s Disease?As we say in medicine: “Age is not a disease.” I was more worried about a hormonal disease somewhat common in Dachshunds called Cushing’s Disease. Cushing’s Disease, also known as Cushing’s Syndrome or hyperadrenocorticism (HAC), is a condition that creates excess cortisol hormone. It’s frequently diagnosed in middle-aged or older Beagles, Boston Terriers, Boxers, Dachshunds, Miniature Schnauzers and Poodles, although any breed can develop hyperadrenocorticism. If I suspect a dog has hyperadrenocorticism, I begin with basic blood and urine tests. If the patient has increased liver enzymes (especially a very high ALP and mildly elevated ALT), high cholesterol, glucose and triglycerides, low urine specific gravity, urine glucose, proteins or evidence of infection, then Cushing’s leaps to the top of the diagnostic list. Danny met many of these screening criteria, meaning it was time to conduct confirmatory tests. Cushing’s Syndrome is caused by either a benign tumor in the pituitary gland (an estimated 85% of cases), a malignant adrenal gland tumor (much rarer but more serious) or due to excessive steroid usage (iatrogenic HAC).
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