Coping with Cushing's disease

(Q) I have an 11-year-old male Yorkshire Terrier who has recently started showing signs of stomach bloating and loss of hair on his back region. After consulting my vet I was told he might have Cushing's disease. He was prescribed Veteryl capsules to be taken daily. I was told he might need these for the rest of his life.

He also needs his blood and urine tested regularly. I would very much appreciate any information you could give me regarding this disease.

(A) Vet Roberta Baxter says: Cushing's disease, or hyperadrenocorticism, is a disease that involves over-production of the body's natural steroid hormones from the adrenal glands. This has knock-on effects all over the body causing increased drinking, changes in eating patterns, intermittent vomiting, and the development of a pot-bellied appearance, muscle loss, and weakness.

Affected dogs also commonly lose hair and develop thinned skin. They may also have problems with poor immunity and potentially liver disease, heart disease, kidney disease, and muscle weakness. Affected dogs can also develop other problems such as diabetes.

Diagnosis involves blood tests that generally show increased liver enzymes and increased white blood cell levels, and further tests can be done to show an excessive level of cortisol in the blood that is not responsive to the body's normal control mechanisms.

Treatment is aimed at reducing the levels of steroids in the blood, which in turn controls and reverses the symptoms of Cushing's disease, helping affected dogs' quality of life and longevity. Hopefully you will find your dog much improved on the treatment.