This is a disease that as groomers we regularly come in contact with.  With a number of dogs on our books who have been diagnosed with Cushing’s disease it is something we all are keen to learn more about.  Some of the symptoms we may come across and report to the owners even before the dog has been diagnosed.

So after much research, I have learned that Cushing’s is to do with the over-production of a hormone called Cortisol.

Cortisol helps regulate the body’s fat, carbohydrate and protein metabolism.  It is released into the bloodstream at times of stress to prepare the body for a flight or fight response.  The hormone is controlled by two glands in the abdomen, either side of the kidneys, called Adrenal Glands.  Another hormone called ACTH controls the production and release of the Cortisol from the adrenal glands.  ACTH is produced by the Pituitary Gland (located at the base of the brain and just pea size). 

It is normal for Cortisol levels to fluctuate a lot in healthy dogs depending on the need to produce it due to anxiety or illness - once the stress period has passed the Cortisol returns to normal levels in the bloodstream.

In dogs with Cushing’s disease it’s this over-production of Cortisol over weeks and months that has a harmful effect on the dog’s internal organs and the body’s metabolism.   

Cushing’s disease will normally occur because of a tumour (often benign) on the Pituitary Gland or Adrenal Glands.  The tumour produces large amounts of the ACTH hormone and in return this stimulates the Adrenal Gland to over-produce Cortisol.

So that’s most of the science covered behind it… Now the things us groomers and pet owners need to look out for:

Cushing’s disease is most common in older, small breed dogs, and the symptoms often go unnoticed or put down to old age.  They include:

  • Hair loss
  • Pot-belly
  • Skin diseases
  • Changes in behaviour
  • Frequent urination
  • Ravenous appetite. 


There are also other signs like muscle wastage, lethargy, excessive panting, and thin skin.  The most common symptom that we are likely to pick up on when grooming your dog is hair loss. 

Rest assured - now we know more about this disease we will always mention any changes we notice since the last grooming appointment, and we will advise a check-up with your vet if necessary.  If left untreated your dog could be in severe discomfort.

If your dog is diagnosed with Cushing’s disease all is not lost - the disease is very easily treated with medication and great results can be seen in your dog after the first month. 

If you would like any further information, or have noticed any changes in your dog please contact us or your local vet.

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