In Cushing’s Disease,or hyperadrenocorticism, the adrenal gland produces too much cortisol, a natural steroid. Cushing’s is one of the most common endocrine disorders in dogs. Most cases of Cushing’s are caused by a benign tumor of the pituitary; the balance stem from adrenal gland tumors. About half of those tumors are malignant. Cushing’s can be inherited, though not in all cases. Affected dogs can have gastrointestinal problems, hypertension, gain weight, hair loss and skin problems. Occasionally the disease will cause a change in coat color. Depending on the root cause of the disease, surgery may be necessary. In all cases, life-long care and veterinary follow-up are needed.
Cushing’s is thought to be inherited in some breeds. It is relatively rare in Australian Shepherds, but should there be more than one case in a group of related dogs it should be assumed to be hereditary. In that case affected dogs should not be bred and healthy relatives need to be bred to mates with no family history of Cushing’s Disease.