Hypothyroidism and Cushing’s Disease in Dogs

pomeranian wearing glasses sitting near stethoscope.

The endocrine system is responsible for the production of important hormones that stimulate specific responses all over the body. These hormones help the body function effectively. Any slight deviation can affect the delicate balance of hormone production. Perhaps the most recognizable disease affecting the endocrine system is diabetes mellitus. However, hypothyroidism and Cushing’s disease in dogs are among the most common health conditions facing canines today. 

Hypo Vs. Hyper

There are seven glands in the endocrine systems that produce and secrete hormones through the bloodstream to the corresponding parts of the body. When an imbalance occurs, there are either lower (hypo) or higher (hyper) hormonal outputs from the glands. Addressing hormonal imbalances is key to upholding canine health and wellness. Treatment can be very effective, and it’s essential to act quickly towards an early diagnosis. 

Hypothyroidism in Dogs

The thyroid controls the body’s metabolism. An underproduction of the thyroid hormone is known as hypothyroidism, and the cause is not always clear. Symptoms of hypothyroidism can include:

  • Patchy hair loss
  • Dry, flaky skin
  • Weight gain without increased appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Ear infections

Issues caused by decreased thyroid hormone can gradually appear, and can sometimes be attributed to aging. Some dog breeds may experience hypothyroidism more than others, including golden retrievers, dobermans, Irish setters, and cocker spaniels. 

What Is Cushing’s Disease?

There are three types of Cushing’s disease. Pituitary-dependent Cushing’s disease results from the growth of a tumor on the pea-sized pituitary gland located in the brain. Adrenal-dependent Cushing’s disease is characterized by a tumor on one or both of the adrenal glands located in the abdomen. The third cause of Cushing’s disease stems from excessive steroid use. 

The clinical signs of Cushing’s disease are the same, regardless of the cause. Too much cortisol in the body can cause a dog to eat, drink, and urinate more than usual. Hair loss, distended abdomen, and lethargy also characterize the disease. Symptoms present in middle age, and is common in senior dogs of the following breeds:

  • Dachshunds
  • Boston terriers
  • German shepards
  • Golden retrievers
  • Poodles

Diagnosing Dog Hormonal Imbalances

Blood tests can detect levels of the thyroid hormone, and will help us determine a treatment plan to replace the thyroid hormone with medication. With proper care and lifelong support, hypothyroidism in dogs can be effectively treated. Hair will regrow, weight will even out, and energy levels normalize.

Cushing’s disease may require additional diagnostic testing, such as hormone tests and ultrasounds. Surgical removal of any adrenal gland tumors may be considered, and certain medications can be administered to minimize the effects of the pituitary tumor. Managing the need for steroid medication can help reduce symptoms of Cushing’s disease caused by steroids.

Here to Help Your Dog

If you have any questions about your dog’s appearance or behavior, please give us a call at (407) 831‑5205. Hormonal imbalances in dogs can be challenging, and our doctors  are always here to help at South Seminole Animal Hospital.