9 Common Symptoms of Cushing’s Disease in Dogs

While there are many symptoms of Cushing’s disease in dogs, some symptoms are more common than others. In addition to evaluating a dog for these symptoms, a veterinarian must also conduct diagnostic tests to determine wether or not a dog has Cushing’s disease.

To help guide you in the right direction, below you will find a list of common symptoms of Cushing’s disease in dogs.

Cushing's disease in dogs

What is Cushing’s Disease in Dogs?

Also known as hyperadrenocorticism, Cushing’s in dogs is a disease that occurs as a result of an overproduction of the adrenal hormone cortisol. While normal levels of cortisol regulate a dog’s stress and appetite, excess levels of cortisol can wreak havoc on a dog’s body.

Symptoms of Cushing’s Disease in Dogs

Below you will find a list of common symptoms of Cushing’s disease in dogs. While not all dogs with these symptoms have Cushing’s disease, this list is meant to be a guide to help primarily diagnose Cushing’s in dogs.

1. Polydipsia—Increased Thirst

Polydipsia by definition is an abnormally great thirst as a result of a disease. A dog with Cushing’s disease will have an increased thirst and consequently drink more. A common symptom of Cushing’s disease in dogs is increased thirst which is medically known as polydipsia.

2. Polyuria—Increased Urination

Similarly, polyuria by definition is the production of abnormally large volumes of dilute urine. A dog with Cushing’s disease will have an increased urination as a result of drinking more. A common symptom of Cushing’s disease in dogs is more frequent urination which is medically known as polyuria.

3. Increased Appetite

Another symptom of Cushing’s disease in dogs is an increased appetite. While normal cortisol levels simulate appetite, cortisol levels in a dog with Cushing’s disease are quite abnormal. As a result, many dogs will experience increased hunger with Cushing’s.

4. Reduced Activity

A lot of dogs with Cushing’s disease experience a decrease in activity and a general lack of energy. This reduced activity is due to the fact that a dog’s cortisol levels are irregular. While normal levels of cortisol turn food into energy, abnormal cortisol levels results in a lack of energy which leads to reduced activity.

5. Increased Panting

Increased panting in normal after exercise, but excessive panting may be a sign of Cushing’s disease in a dog. While panting is normal and regulates a dog’s body temperature, increased panting can be a result of an overproduction of cortisol.

6. Thin or Fragile Skin

Thin or fragile skin is a symptom of Cushing’s disease in dogs. If you notice that the skin of your dog is thinner than normal to the touch or if you see abnormal bruising, this may be a sign of Cushing’s. Bruising is a result of fragile blood vessels.

7. Hair Loss

Many dogs with Cushing’s disease experience hair loss. While this hair loss primarily occurs symmetrically on the torso, very few dogs see hair loss on the legs and head. A loss of hair may be a sign that a dog has Cushing’s disease.

8. Skin Infections

Not only do dogs with Cushing’s tend to develop thinner skin, but many dogs also experience recurrent skin infections. While some canine skin diseases cause itchiness, dogs with Cushing’s do not usually have skin infections that itch.

9. Enlarged Potbellied Abdomen

Because of an increased appetite and excessive cortisol levels, dogs with Cushing’s disease tend to develop an enlarged potbellied abdomen. A bloated liver and general lack of energy causes a dog’s abdominal muscles to relax. As a result, a dog with Cushing’s disease has an abdomen that appears enlarged.


For some information on treating Cushing’s disease in dog, check out this article on the FDA’s website.

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