Cushing's Syndrome

Cushing’s syndrome or canine hyperadrenocorticisim where an excessive amount of cortisol is being released from the adrenal glands into the body. It is the most common endocrine disorder of dogs, but may be left undiagnosed due to the symptoms of Cushing’s being mistaken for general ageing. It can be caused by a tumour in the pituitary gland (which controls the adrenal glands) or a tumour of one adrenal gland.



Clinical signs of Hyperadrenocorticism (Cushing’s) include:

  • Polydipsia (excessive drinking)
  • Polyuria (excessive urination)
  • Polyphagia (excessive appetite) - often results in scavenging or stealing.
  • Pot-belly - due to fat deposition, weakness of abdominal muscles and an enlarged liver
  • Thinning of the skin.
  • Hair loss on the body, but not on the face and legs
  • Excessive panting
  • Lethargy
  • Neurological signs can occur with a large pituitary tumour.


The signs of Cushing’s syndrome arise due to an excess of circulating glucocorticoids, in particular cortisol. In healthy dogs, cortisol is released from the adrenal glands when the pituitary gland releases a hormone to stimulate it. In Cushing’s disease, a tumour of the pituitary gland when release excess amounts of that hormone, overstimulating the adrenal glands. Alternatively, there may be a tumour of the adrenal gland which releases too much cortisol, independent of the pituitary gland. The disease can be controlled with medication, to improve quality of life for both the pet and owner.