Cushing's Disease in Senior Dogs

Cushing's Disease in Senior Dogs

As our dogs age, they may encounter a range of health issues, one of which could be Cushing's disease. This endocrine disorder is particularly common in older dogs and affects the adrenal glands, leading to an overproduction of cortisol. 

This guide aims to shed light on the ins and outs of Cushing's disease in senior dogs, from symptoms and diagnosis to treatment and long-term care.

What is Canine Cushing’s Disease in Elderly Dogs?

Cushing's disease in senior dogs is an endocrine disorder that primarily affects their adrenal glands. As dogs age, the risk of developing this condition increases. Knowing the symptoms and understanding the treatment options can make a world of difference in your pet's quality of life.

Causes of Cushing's Disease in Senior Dogs

The primary causes of Cushing's disease in senior dogs are either a tumor in the pituitary gland or in the adrenal glands. These tumors lead to the excessive production of cortisol. Age-related changes in endocrine function also make older dogs more susceptible to this condition.

Recognizing the Symptoms

Common symptoms include increased thirst and urination, excessive panting, a pot-bellied appearance, and skin issues. Because many of these symptoms overlap with general signs of aging, it can be challenging to recognize the disease early on.

Diagnosis Procedures for an Elderly Dog

Veterinarians usually perform a series of blood tests, urine tests, and imaging studies to diagnose Cushing's disease. Further, confirmatory tests like the ACTH stimulation test and the low-dose dexamethasone suppression test might also be conducted.

How is Cushing’s in Older Dogs Treated?

Various treatments are available, but each comes with its own set of considerations. Treatment usually involves medications like Trilostane or Mitotane that help control cortisol levels. In some cases, surgical removal of the affected adrenal gland may be recommended. The age and overall health of your senior dog will be factors in determining the best treatment approach.

Long-term Care and Management

Long-term care involves regular vet check-ups, medication adjustments, and lifestyle changes, including dietary modifications and exercise. Monitoring your dog for any changes in symptoms is crucial for ongoing management.

Prognosis and Quality of Life

With timely diagnosis and proper management, many dogs continue to live a relatively normal life. However, the effectiveness of treatment can vary, and other age-related factors may impact the overall prognosis.


While Cushing's disease is more common in older dogs, timely diagnosis and appropriate treatment can significantly improve your dog's quality of life. The key is to work closely with your veterinarian to tailor a treatment and management plan that suits your senior dog's specific needs.

Remember, this guide aims to provide a comprehensive overview but should not replace professional veterinary advice. Always consult your veterinarian for diagnosis and treatment plans customized to your senior dog's needs.


How Long Can a Senior Dog Live With Cushing’s?

The lifespan of a senior dog with Cushing's disease can vary widely depending on the effectiveness of the treatment and any other existing health conditions, but many can live several years with proper management.

What Are the Final Stages of Canine Cushing’s Disease?

In the final stages of Cushing's disease, dogs may experience severe symptoms such as extreme weakness, frequent infections, and complications related to diabetes or other organ systems, which can significantly impair their quality of life.

What Does Late Stage Cushing’s Disease in Dogs Look Like?

In late-stage Cushing's disease, dogs may exhibit advanced symptoms like skin infections, muscle atrophy, excessive panting, and a worsened pot-bellied appearance, along with increased susceptibility to other severe health complications like kidney failure or pancreatitis.