Cushing’s Disease In Dogs

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What are the signs and causes of Cushing’s disease in the Maltese breed and what types of treatment are needed?

May 2014

courtesy of Porkchop


Any owner of Maltese dogs will want to be aware of the signs and symptoms of Cushing’s disease, a common condition that can often affect the Maltese breed specifically, but also small dogs in general. Your pets can benefit greatly from your awareness of this disease and its symptoms and causes, which offers a better chance of early detection and control. Read on for Maltese breed information about Cushing’s disease and what to look for in order to increase your chances of catching the illness early on.


A benign, or non-spreading tumor, in the pituitary gland is most often the cause of Cushing’s disease in Maltese dogs. The pituitary gland is the body’s hormonal headquarters, and these relatively common tumors can cause a spike in cortisone levels, which leads in turn to a host of symptoms throughout the body. This is because cortisone levels can impact so many of the body’s systems, so signs of the illness can vary quite a lot from dog to dog.

Signs & Symptoms

An increase in your pet’s thirst, hunger and urination can be a sign of Cushing’s disease, particularly when combined with any of the other symptoms of this condition. If your dog is panting more without an obvious cause, like heat or recent activity, or if they shows a marked lack of energy or insomnia, this might be a good indication that it’s time to make an appointment with your dog’s veterinarian. Sudden muscle weakness is another symptom that you should mention when you talk with the doctor. Finally, due to the hormonal nature of the illness, a lack of a menstrual cycle in female dogs and a shrinking of a male dog’s testicles could also be a sign of the disease.

Your dog’s appearance can serve as a warning that something isn’t right as well. A potbelly, fat accumulating around the neck and shoulders and general obesity are all fairly common symptoms of Cushing’s, as is a so-called “moon” face that comes on over time. A loss of hair, darkened skin and bruising are known to have causes related to the disease as well, and blackheads on the skin of your Maltese should also be checked out by a medical professional. If you’re seeing scaly white patches on your pet’s skin and joints, this might be a sign of calcinosis cutis, which is associated with Cushing’s disease.


There is not currently a cure for Cushing’s disease, but there are treatments available to help with the control of the condition. Medications are available, but they must be monitored closely to ensure that potential side effects don’t negatively affect your Maltese. Surgery to remove the tumor is also a common treatment, though that option often requires medication beforehand in order to stabilize your pet’s systems for the operation.

By keeping a keen eye on the appearance and behavior of your Maltese dog, there’s a good chance that you can catch Cushing’s disease before it becomes a critical issue in your pet’s life.





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