Leslie Kasperowicz holds a BA in Social Sciences from the University of Winnipeg. She spent several years as a Farmers Insurance CSR, gaining a solid understanding of insurance products including home, life, auto, and commercial and working directly with insurance customers to understand their needs. She has since used that knowledge in her more than ten years as a writer, largely in the insuranc...

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Written by Leslie Kasperowicz
Farmers CSR for 4 Years Leslie Kasperowicz

Melanie Musson is the fourth generation in her family to work in the insurance industry. She grew up with insurance talk as part of her everyday conversation and has studied to gain an in-depth knowledge of state-specific car insurance laws and dynamics as well as a broad understanding of how insurance fits into every person’s life, from budgets to coverage levels. She also specializes in automa...

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Reviewed by Melanie Musson
Published Insurance Expert Melanie Musson

UPDATED: Nov 17, 2020

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Cushing’s disease in dogs is a condition when a dog has unusually high levels of cortisol or similar hormones in his system.

Cortisol is a hormone that helps dogs deal with stress and aids in controlling their immune system. However, too much cortisol in a dog can cause a lot of damage.

Cushing’s disease, also called hyperadrenocorticism, is one of the most common endocrine disorders that affect dogs, mainly middle-aged or older dogs.

The higher levels of the glucocorticoid hormones can result in gastrointestinal issues, hypertension, discomfort, and if left untreated, even death.

Symptoms of Cushing’s Disease in Dogs

Some of the symptoms that can occur when a dog has Cushing’s disease are the following:

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  • Increased hunger, thirst, and urination
  • Excessive panting
  • Obesity, especially in the abdominal area
  • Fatty areas around neck and shoulders
  • Loss of hair
  • Insomnia
  • Lack of energy and muscle weakness
  • Lack of heat cycle in females, shrinking testicles in males
  • Blackheads on the skin
  • Darkened skin
  • Thinning or weak skin due to weight gain
  • Bruising
  • Hard, white scaly patches on elbows and skin

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Causes of Cushing’s Disease

vet examines dog for Cushing's disease in dog

There are a few causes that can contribute to a dog developing Cushing’s disease:

Pituitary Gland dependent

This is the most common cause of Cushing’s disease and occurs when there is a tiny tumor located on the pituitary.

Most of the time, these tumors are benign.

Adrenal Gland dependent

This is when Cushing’s disease occurs from a tumor in one adrenal gland and affects 15% to 20% of diagnosed dogs.

This type of cancer in dogs has a fifty percent chance of being malignant.

Iatrogenic Cushing’s disease

When a dog has taken steroids for too long, this form of Cushing’s can occur as an adverse reaction to the steroids.

Related: 10 Things You Must Know Before You Buy Pet Insurance


Cushing’s disease can be challenging to diagnose accurately, but there are a few tests that your vet will probably perform.

A blood test and urinalysis

Your veterinarian will test your dog’s blood and take a urine sample.  If these tests show diluted urine or a problem with your dog’s alkaline level, your dog could have Cushing’s disease.

If the sample is positive for Cushing’s, there are two follow up hormone screenings that will be conducted:

ACTH stimulation test

This test will show how the adrenal glands will work with a hormone, ACTH that is supposed to prompt the production of cortisol.  Blood samples will follow this test to see the effects.

Low dose dexamethasone suppression (or LDDS) test

This test determines how your dog’s body produces a version of cortisol that is called dexamethasone (man-made cortisol).  Again, blood samples will be taken before and after your dog receives a shot of dexamethasone to see the outcome.


If your pup seems that he has developed Cushing’s, your veterinarian might also take an ultrasound of your dog’s belly. This test will help your vet to see if there’s a tumor on the adrenal glands.

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Treatment Options with Cushing’s Disease

The treatment of Cushing’s depends on how the disease was developed.

Dogs that have Cushing’s disease due to an overuse of corticosteroid medication will be slowly weaned off these medications under a veterinarian’s guidance.

If a dog has mild symptoms of Cushing’s disease, then the dog would be monitored to make sure that the symptoms do not worsen.

Some examples of the disease become more serious are kidney damage, urinary accidents, excessive panting, urinating more often, and reoccurring infections.

If Cushing’s syndrome is a result of a tumor on your pet’s adrenal glands, the vet will usually surgically remove it which should help cure your dog of Cushing’s. However, if the Cushing’s has spread, surgery is not an option.

Once Cushing’s has been diagnosed, and none of the other treatment options is suitable, your vet will usually prescribe a medication called trilostane. While trilostane can help cure Cushing’s when it is pituitary related, the drug is known to have some severe side effects so your dog will need to be monitored.

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Can Pet Insurance Help With Cushing’s Disease?

If you have pet insurance before a diagnosis of Cushing’s disease, you will be very relieved to have pet insurance.

If your dog develops Cushing’s disease, and you are not enrolled in pet insurance, the condition will be considered pre-existing, and it will not be covered.

Pet insurance can help offset the cost of treatment, which can range anywhere from $500 to $1,900 depending on the severity of the condition.

Pet insurance plans like Healthy Paws will pay up to 90% of the treatment, and with their unlimited benefits included in all plans, you can be sure your dog will be treated for the duration of his or her life.


There is no way to prevent Cushing’s disease.

The best thing you can do for your dog for this or any other disease or condition is to bring your dog to the vet if you notice your dog acting strangely or his or her urination patterns have changed abruptly.

Living and Management

If your veterinarian decides to give you dog trilostane for Cushing’s, your dog will be on the treatment for the duration of his or her life.

You will need to be mindful of any side effects that might occur and keep up with your vet visits.

Some of the adverse side effects that can occur are lack of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, and sometimes walking can be difficult.

However, if you keep up with the vet visits and follow your vet’s advice, your dog can still live a happy and long life.

If you are interested in learning about some other dog health issues that can occur with your dog, our dog health glossary is an excellent place to start!

Other articles you may find helpful: 

Is Exotic Pet Insurance Necessary? 

The Best Pet Insurance By State 

What Is Pet Insurance?

Fun Facts, Dog FAQ, And Unsolicited Dog Advice

5 Training Commands to Save Your Dog’s Life

The Ultimate Guide to Safe Foods for Dogs

Dog Health Problems

Dog Breeds


Cat Health Problems

Cat Breeds


We get it, your dog is like your child and when your puppy or dog has health problems it is scary. Luckily there is pet insurance companies that will help you pay for any veterinarian care they made need. Checkout the best puppy and dog pet insurance companies and learn about common puppy health issues and ailments in older pets


Common Health Problems:

Acral Lick Granuloma in Dogs

Alopecia in Dogs

Antifreeze Toxicity in Dogs

Aortic Stenosis in Dogs

Arthritis In Dogs

Bladder Stones in Dogs

Boxer Cardiomyopathy

Cataracts In Dogs

Cherry Eye in Dogs

Chronic Active Hepatitis in Dogs

Collie Eye Anomaly In Dogs

Constipation in Dogs

Cruciate Ligament Tear in Dogs

Cryptorchidism in Dogs

Cushing’s Disease in Dogs

Degenerative Myelopathy | Spinal Cord Disease In Dogs

Dementia in Dogs | Canine Cognitive Dysfunction

Demodicosis In Dogs

Dental Problems in Dogs

Diabetes In Dogs

Dog Comedones (Schnauzer Bumps)

Dog Diarrhea: What Can You Do To Help?

Dog Ear Infections

Dystocia in Dogs

Ectropion in Dogs

Elbow Dysplasia in Dogs

Entropion In Dogs

Eye Problems in Dogs

Fleas in Dogs

Gallbladder Obstruction in Dogs

Gallstones in Dogs

Gastroenteritis In Dogs

Glaucoma in Dogs

Heart Murmurs In Dogs | How To Identify Them

Hip Dysplasia in Dogs

Hot Spots On Dogs

Hyperparathyroidism In Dogs

Hypothyroidism In Dogs

Intervertebral Disc Disease In Dogs

Nasal Solar Dermatitis In Dogs

Patellar Luxation in Dogs

Progressive Retinal Atrophy In Dogs

Renal Failure in Dogs

Seizures in Dogs

Wobbler Syndrome In Dogs

The Dog Flu – Symptoms & Treatment for Canine Influenza

Dog Biting Nails