how to test for cushing’s disease in dogs

Mariah Brown

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Mariah Brown

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Welcome, dog owners! Are you concerned that your furry friend may be showing symptoms of Cushing’s disease? If so, you’ve come to the right place. In this article, we will explore the various tests used to diagnose Cushing’s disease in dogs. As a dog owner and someone with experience around how to test for Cushing’s disease in dogs, I understand the importance of finding accurate information to help your furry companion. Let’s dive in and learn more about how to test for Cushing’s disease in dogs, so you can give your pup the best care possible!

how to test for cushing’s disease in dogs

Understanding Cushing’s Disease in Dogs

Cushing’s disease, also known as hyperadrenocorticism, is a condition that occurs when the body produces an excessive amount of cortisol, a hormone that helps the body respond to stress. This condition can cause a range of symptoms in dogs, including excessive thirst and urination, increased appetite, hair loss and thinning, a pot-belly appearance, and lethargy and weakness. It is important to note that while the symptoms may be indicative of Cushing’s disease, further testing is required for a definitive diagnosis.

Symptoms of Cushing’s Disease

Recognizing the symptoms of Cushing’s disease in your dog is the first step in seeking proper diagnosis and treatment. Keep an eye out for the following common symptoms:

  • Excessive thirst and urination: Dogs with Cushing’s disease may drink and urinate more frequently than usual.
  • Increased appetite: Your dog may exhibit a ravenous appetite and constantly beg for food.
  • Hair loss and thinning: The condition can cause your dog to lose hair, especially on the body, tail, and feet.
  • Pot-belly appearance: Cushing’s disease can result in the accumulation of abdominal fat, causing a pot-belly appearance.
  • Lethargy and weakness: Dogs with Cushing’s disease may lack energy and show signs of weakness.

Diagnosing Cushing’s Disease in Dogs

Once you suspect that your dog may have Cushing’s disease, it is essential to consult with your veterinarian for a proper diagnosis. The diagnostic process typically involves several tests to measure cortisol levels and determine the cause of the disease. Here are the most common tests used to diagnose Cushing’s disease in dogs:

Blood and Urine Tests

Blood and urine tests are usually the initial screening tests for Cushing’s disease in dogs. These tests measure cortisol levels and help identify potential cases. Your veterinarian will collect blood and urine samples from your dog, which will be analyzed in a laboratory. Elevated cortisol levels can indicate the presence of Cushing’s disease, but further testing is needed to confirm the diagnosis.

ACTH Stimulation Test

The ACTH stimulation test is a more specific diagnostic test for Cushing’s disease in dogs. This test involves injecting your dog with synthetic adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), which stimulates the production of cortisol. Blood samples are taken before and after the injection to measure cortisol levels. If the cortisol levels remain high despite the ACTH injection, it indicates the presence of Cushing’s disease.

Low-Dose Dexamethasone Suppression Test

The low-dose dexamethasone suppression test is another commonly used test for diagnosing Cushing’s disease in dogs. In this test, a small amount of dexamethasone, a synthetic corticosteroid, is given to your dog. The cortisol levels are then measured to determine if the dexamethasone effectively suppresses cortisol production. Elevated cortisol levels after dexamethasone administration may indicate the presence of Cushing’s disease.

Understanding the Test Results

Once the diagnostic tests have been performed, your veterinarian will analyze the results to make an accurate diagnosis. High cortisol levels in blood and urine samples, along with low suppression of cortisol in the low-dose dexamethasone suppression test, can indicate Cushing’s disease. However, additional tests may be necessary to determine the underlying cause of the disease.

Frequently Asked Questions about Testing for Cushing’s Disease in Dogs

1. How long does it take to get the results of the blood and urine tests?

The turnaround time for blood and urine test results can vary depending on the laboratory, but it is typically within a few days.

2. Are blood and urine tests enough to diagnose Cushing’s disease?

No, blood and urine tests serve as initial screening tests. Further tests like the ACTH stimulation test or the low-dose dexamethasone suppression test are needed for a definitive diagnosis.

3. Can Cushing’s disease in dogs be cured?

Cushing’s disease cannot be cured, but it can be managed with appropriate treatment to improve the quality of life for your dog.

4. Are there any side effects or risks associated with the tests?

The tests are generally safe, but there may be some risks or side effects. Your veterinarian will discuss these with you before conducting the tests.

5. What if the results of the tests are inconclusive?

If the test results are inconclusive, your veterinarian may recommend additional tests, such as an ultrasound or an MRI, to further evaluate your dog’s condition.

6. Can Cushing’s disease be treated with medication?

Yes, medication is often prescribed to manage the symptoms of Cushing’s disease and regulate cortisol levels in dogs.

7. Can Cushing’s disease be prevented?

Cushing’s disease cannot be prevented, but early detection and treatment can help manage the condition and improve your dog’s quality of life.

8. How often should I bring my dog for check-ups after the diagnosis?

Regular veterinary check-ups are important to monitor your dog’s condition and ensure that the treatment is effective. Your veterinarian will advise you on the appropriate frequency of visits.

9. Can I still walk my dog during the testing process?

It is best to consult with your veterinarian regarding activity restrictions for your dog during the testing process.

10. Can other health conditions mimic the symptoms of Cushing’s disease?

Yes, there are other conditions that can cause similar symptoms. That is why proper diagnostic testing is crucial to differentiate between Cushing’s disease and other health issues.


Testing for Cushing’s disease in dogs involves a series of diagnostic tests to accurately diagnose the condition and determine the underlying cause. Blood and urine tests, the ACTH stimulation test, and the low-dose dexamethasone suppression test are essential tools in the diagnostic process. Remember, early detection and proper management can improve your dog’s quality of life. If you suspect your furry friend may have Cushing’s disease, consult with your veterinarian for a comprehensive evaluation and appropriate testing.

For more information on dog health and caring for your canine companion, feel free to explore our other articles to ensure you provide the best possible care for your furry friend!

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