Cushings Diary logo - small What is Cushings?
(disease vs syndrome)

In a nutshell Cushings syndrome refers to the symptoms seen in humans, dogs, horses, and (more rarely) cats that is the result of too much of the hormone cortisol being secreted into the body from the adrenal glands. Cortisol plays an important role in the body, it's often referred to as the "fight or flight" hormone. In proper amounts it's harmless, during periods of stress or fear our adenal glands release more of it. This gives us a quick burst of extra energy to escape a fearful situation and lowers our sensitivity to pain.

After the situation calms our bodies then go back into relaxation mode and the cortisol levels return to normal. However with Cushings the body isn't being told to turn off cortisol production so it just keeps getting pumped out creating a hormone imbalance. The body goes into a state of chronic stress and the results can vary from causing thyroid disfunction, blood sugar imbalances, muscle tissue loss, decreased bone density, increased appetite, excessive thirst and fluid retention (in turn causing increased urination), fatigue, hair loss, and of course the symptom that most of us are familiar with... increased abdominal fat. In dogs and horses it's easy to spot the pot-bellied appearance as well as possibility seeing Cushings disease vs syndrome back curvature. Causes of Cushings syndrome can include tumors within the adrenal gland, ACTH production from pituitary tumors or even lung cancer.

It's important to note that iIf you are told you or your pet has "Cushingoid" features (and not diagnosed with Cushings syndrome) it means that you are experiencing side effects from steroids or anti-inflammatory drugs such as Prednisone. If the offending drug is stopped the symptoms disappear shortly thereafter.

Cushings disease differs from Cushings syndrome in that it means that on top of the symptoms there is a pituitary tumor secreting excessive ACTH (Adrenocorticotropic hormone, basically an adrenal gland stimulating hormone). The pituitary gland is a small gland no bigger than a kidney bean located in the middle of the base of the brain, one of its jobs is to stimulate the adrenal glands production of cortisol. In a nutshell the pituitary gland is being forced to send more ACTH hormone which tells the adrenal glands to release more coritisol. A viscious cycle without an easy off switch. Even though it hurts to hear there is no cure yet, but there IS plenty of hope and many happy years can be had with proper maintenance. So yes there is great hope that your beloved pet will go back to their normal loving self with treatment and regular maintenance. They deserve that quality of life so the earlier you get treatment started the better.

Who discovered Cushings?

That would be Dr. Harvey Williams Cushing (1869 - 1939), he was an American neurosurgeon and was the first to note the various symptoms of this frustrating condition.

Why is this happening to us now?

Cushings seems to strike at the most random times and happens to the best of humans and our beloved pets. It's mostly seen in older animals but there are many cases of it happening to young and middle aged pets. It's unpredictable, there is nothing that you did wrong to cause it. It is a random condition that can happen to any of us or our pets.

Continue reading "Why Now..."


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Canine Cushings Disease dog photo

Interesting Facts

Cushings Disease is most common in dogs, and is mostly seen in middle and senior aged dogs. Pituitary gland tumors are more commonly found than adrenal gland tumors.

Approximately ten out of every million humans are diagnosed with Cushings Disease.

In horses it is referred to as ECD, Equine Cushings Disease.

Cushings Disease, while not seen as often in cats, is more likely to affect females than males and diabetes is commonly diagnosed along with it.

Did you know....

"Cushings Disease is the most common endocrine disorder in older dogs. It's important that people are aware that while there is no cure (yet) the condition IS treatable and many more happy years can be had with their beloved pet."