Cushing’s and Addison’s: The Dualism of a Dog’s Adrenal Glands

Cushing's and Addison’s in dogs

Adrenal glands are small but mighty organs sitting on top of each kidney. They measure less than half an inch in width. But they are way more functional when you compare them to other vital organs, such as the kidneys or the liver.

These glands are responsible for the production of an array of hormones that are essential for the body to survive. An imbalance of any of these hormones can result in a variety of clinical disorders crop up.

Cortisol is one of these essential hormones. It is produced by the adrenal glands to maintain the homeostasis of a dog’s body when it is under stress.


Cushing's and Addison’s in dogs


But if the adrenal glands produce too much or too little is it, it causes complications in a dog’s body. Overproduction of cortisol causes Cushing’s disease, whereas too little of the hormone results in Addison’s disease.

Some breeds are more susceptible to these diseases, but all dogs should get regularly monitored for signs. Both of these diseases are rarely found in cats.

Addison’s Versus Cushing’s

Although the symptoms of both the diseases vary a little, vomiting and diarrhea can occur in both of them. That is why veterinary doctors perform blood tests to determine the exact reason for these symptoms. Addison’s disease will usually cause the levels of sodium and chloride in the blood to drop and raise the concentration of potassium.

If the diagnosis does not get done on time, there could be severe consequences. The dog can get severely dehydrated, and the high levels of potassium can prove to be fatal. That is why it is essential to monitor the potassium levels when a dog gets diagnosed with Addison’s disease.

The overproduction of cortisol might be a result of an undetected tumor present in the adrenal glands of the dog. Sometimes it can also be due to a pituitary gland tumor. The pituitary gland tells the adrenal glands to stop making cortisol. However, the comminution between the two glands can get disrupted by the tumor.


Cushing's and Addison’s in dogs

Dogs suffering from Cushing’s disease can drink too much water, have increased blood pressure, and the presence of protein in their urine. They could also be showing signs of excessive hair loss.


The treatments for both diseases are entirely different. In Addison’s disease, a dog needs to be provided with Cortisol. The hormonal supplements are either fed to the dog or injected depending on the severity and the circumstances. For Cushing’s disease, a doctor would usually prescribe surgery or medications.

The treatment will depend on the cause of the disease. Alternative and holistic methods also get used in treating Cushing’s disease in pets with adrenal support supplements.

Recognizing the Diseases

Dogs suffer from Cushing’s disease more than Addison’s disease. Pet parents should recognize these symptoms and get a blood test done immediately.

Cushing’s Disease

The dog will drink and urinate excessively.

The dog will lose too much hair, sometimes in patches.

The dog might have high blood pressure.

There would be protein found in the urine.

The dog might unusually gain weight and have a pot-bellied appearance.

Addison’s Disease

The dog will have a poor appetite. It will also show signs of vomiting and diarrhea.

It will suffer from sudden weight loss.

There would be signs of anemia.

There would be a high concentration of potassium in the blood.

Levels of sodium and chloride in the blood will drop.


Addison’s disease cannot be treated but can only get managed. Treatment for Cushing’s disease can also be tricky. Removing a tumor is not always successful in the treatment of Cushing’s disease. The traditional medications can have side effects that are worse than the symptoms of the disease.

That is why natural therapies are becoming increasingly popular. Many pet parents are turning to holistic treatments, such as herbal medicines and supplements containing CBD oils. Cannabidiol has proved especially beneficial in limiting the symptoms of both diseases. It has also shown signs of being able to treat Cushing’s disease.

CBD oil gets extracted from cannabis plants, but it does not contain THC, and will not get the dog high. It is extremely successful in correcting the hormonal imbalance caused by the diseases. In some cases, CBD oil has also proved useful in shrinking the size of the tumor.

Immediate diagnosis and treatment are crucial for both diseases. Dogs should get regularly monitored for the signs of both diseases. It is always advisable to speak to a veterinary doctor to know more about the monitoring and prevention of these diseases.

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