Cushing’s disease, or hyperadrenocorticism, refers to a condition when the body produces too much of the stress hormone called cortisol. The production of this hormone takes place in two small glands above the kidneys, called adrenal glands. In times of stress, the adrenal glands release cortisol, also known as the “fight-or-flight” hormone. This is a healthy survival mechanism that serves animals well when faced with dangerous situations in the wild. However, when stress is chronic, cortisol is released in excessive amounts that can be devastating to an animal’s health.
Whether it’s regular trips to the vet’s office, conflicts with other pets or daily visits from the mail carrier, stress can be a very real problem for many pets. High strung, nervous pets often exhibit greater amounts of chronic stress that can contribute to the development of Cushing’s disease over time. Animals suffering from this condition exhibit a range of negative symptoms such as increased appetite, panting, skin problems, thinning fur, elevated blood sugar, low energy levels, a “pot belly,” and increased thirst or urination. While chemical treatments for these symptoms do exist, long-term use does come with a number of potential side effects and health risks.