Jan 16 2014

Cushings – the Barry Bonds disease

What does a dog with Cushings have in common with Barry Bonds, you ask?  Nothing really, other than they both have too many steroids in their system.

And, unless your dog can hit a ball into McCovey Cove like Barry Bonds, that is where the similarities end.  The steroids are obviously from a different source, and in dogs they are not “performance enhancing” like the athletes of the day use.

Cushings Origins

Cushings starts in one of two locations.  It can either begin in the Pituitary Gland in the brain or in the Adrenal Glands.  I won’t bore you with details, but the pathway goes from Pituitary to the Adrenals to the body.  The Adrenal Glands are responsible for the production of epinephrine, but they also produce all types of steroids which the body uses in everyday operations.  Everyone needs a little bit of steroids, with the emphasis being a very LITTLE bit.

If a tumor forms in the Pituitary or Adrenal Gland, it can start telling the body “Make more steroids!”  Once the steroid production is increased, the dog starts eating more, drinking more, panting more, urinating more, having skin issues, and becoming potbellied.

Cushings Diagnosis and Treatment

Cushings can be a difficult disease to diagnose.  However, once you prove that the body is sensitized to crank out the steroids at a moments notice and you see the tell-tale symptoms, you know Cushings is afoot.  Treatment is not fun either – it requires either a compound to kill off part of the Adrenal Glands (its about as safe as it sounds) or a compound to block the production of steroids (not always as easy as it sounds).  Plus, there has to be constant monitoring so that the steroid levels are not dropped too low, causing a lack of steroids in the body – which can be life threatening.

As I read this, I wonder if anyone is still with me – Cushings is a terribly complicated and boring disease to treat, but it really is common and serious in dogs and one that is worth having on the radar if you start to see these signs in your dog.  And, if nothing else, if you ever run into Barry Bonds you will know what to talk about when there is an awkward silence.

– Doc Cleland

muller01 | College Park Vet Blog

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