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Cushing disease is hyperadrenocorticism caused by an ACTH-secreting tumor of the pituitary gland. Clinical signs include polyuria, polydipsia, alopecia, and muscle weakness. A low-dose dexamethasone suppression test is the preferred diagnostic test. Treatment options include medical therapy, radiation, and surgery.

Breeds in which Cushing disease is commonly seen include:

  • Poodles, especially miniature poodles
  • Dachshunds
  • Boxers
  • Boston terriers
  • Yorkshire terriers
  • Staffordshire terriers

Large-breed dogs often have adrenal tumors, and there is a distinct predilection in females (3:1). In cats, hyperadrenocorticism is found in middle-aged to older cats, with a slight predilection in females (60%).

The most common clinical signs of Cushing disease in dogs and cats are:

  • polydipsia
  • polyuria
  • polyphagia
  • heat intolerance
  • lethargy
  • abdominal enlargement (“pot-belly”)
  • panting (dogs only)
  • muscle weakness
  • recurrent urinary tract infections
  • alopecia
  • thin, fragile skin (especially cats)
  • phlebectasias
  • comedones
  • bruising
  • cutaneous hyperpigmentation
  • calcinosis cutis
  • pyoderma
  • dermal atrophy (especially around scars)
  • secondary demodicosis
  • seborrhea

In cats, the most striking dermatologic sign is increased skin fragility; many cats present with self-inflicted cutaneous wounds. Secondary infections (especially respiratory) are also common in cats.

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