If the four-legged friend drinks a lot, loses hair, is dull and the abdominal girth is visibly larger, it may be a disease that is also known from humans: Cushing's syndrome. The disease was discovered by the neurosurgeon Harvey Cushing, hence the name. Trigger is a constantly increased cortisol level. Cortisol is produced in the adrenal cortices as the body's natural defense substance. However, the pathological overproduction of the hormone causes problems. The causes vary, and are sometimes even the result of medical therapies.
Overproduction of cortisol triggers disease
Many people are familiar with this: Cortisone is prescribed for inflammations. However, a high dose over a long period of time must be kept under close observation, otherwise there is a risk of consequential damage. However, the disease is much more often caused by an overproduction of the body's own cortisol. This body fire department is actually supposed to regulate the sugar metabolism and blood prere in such a way that inflammations are prevented with "on-board remedies" to be combated. In fact, the cortisol surge in the bloodstream leads to diabetes and infectious diseases, for example, by fungi, bacteria or parasites.
If left untreated, the course of Cushing's is ultimately fatal, especially since in over 80 percent of cases tumors in the pituitary gland are the trigger for cortisol overproduction.
Some dog breeds are particularly at risk
Basically, Cushing's syndrome can occur in all breeds. However, cats are affected much less frequently than dogs. Terriers, dachshunds, boxers, beagles and poodles are particularly at risk. Age and sex also play a role, as bitches are more often affected than males, and older dogs are more severely affected than young ones.
Affected animals usually have great thirst
In humans, the insidious disease can be recognized quite quickly: increased obesity and the typical bloated "moon face" are sure signs of overproduction are sure signs of an overproduction of the body's own cortisol. In animals, the physical signs are not quite so clear-cut. As the name "syndrome already indicates, the manifestations are manifold. Almost all affected animals show however a strong thirst and an increased urine excretion. Unfortunately, this also happens uncontrollably in the home, because the animals can no longer control the excretions so well. At the same time they develop a ravenous appetite. The abdominal girth increases significantly up to the "pendulum belly", at the same time thin legs.
Hair loss and breathing problems further symptoms
Another alarm signal is hair loss: dogs lose the hair on their hind legs, in the tail region, on the back, on the head and on the paws. A thin, parchment-like skin becomes visible due to the hair loss. Pigmentations and skin diseases stand out on it fast. In addition, wound healing is impaired.
The altered behavior also indicates that the animals are not well: dogs appear dull, can only jump into the car with difficulty and have little stamina on walks: they begin to tremble, have breathing problems and pant more often.
Diagnostic and therapeutic procedures at the veterinarian
If an animal shows one or more abnormalities that correspond to the description, a veterinarian should definitely be consulted. On the basis of blood and urine tests, the diagnosis can be made without doubt. The Hamburg veterinarian Dr. Fabian von Manteuffel also performs a so-called ACTH test (adrenocorticotropic hormone test): This is a kind of stress test for the production of the body's own cortisol. "The dog is injected with a substance that spores his adrenal glands. By the way the cortisol rises, one can recognize whether the dog is ill, i.e. produces too much cortisone. But this does not cause pain to the animal."
Medication can alleviate symptoms
Cushing's syndrome cannot be cured, but the symptoms can be alleviated with medication. As a rule, treatment is carried out with the active substance trilostane. This inhibits the production of cortisol. Can restore the vitality of the animals. A liver-friendly and easily digestible food is also part of the treatment plan.
With daily administration of medication, careful monitoring and regular checks by the veterinarian, the quality of life of the animals can be significantly improved. Von Manteuffel also points out, however, that not every therapy is successful: "The decisive factor is whether the dogs tolerate the medication.