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10 Dog Breeds Prone to Cushing’s Disease

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Life stage: Adult, Senior

Should you be worried about Cushing’s disease and your dog? Research shows that this hormonal disorder affects approximately 0.2 percent of dogs. [1] However, there are certain dog breeds prone to Cushing’s disease, so it’s worth knowing if your pet faces a greater risk.

Even if your dog develops Cushing’s, there’s hope. Depending on the cause, there are surgical treatments and medications, like Vetoryl, to help manage the disease.

In this article, we will identify which dog breeds are more likely to develop Cushing’s disease. Plus, we’ll cover symptoms to watch out for and tips on how to manage the disease in your dog. 

Cushing’s Disease: What Exactly Is It?

Cushing’s disease is a hormonal imbalance also known as Cushing’s syndrome and hyperadrenocorticism. It develops when a dog’s body overproduces the hormone cortisol. 

This can happen when:

  • Dogs develop a tumor on the pituitary or adrenal gland (known as “natural” Cushing’s disease) 
  • Dogs experience long-term exposure to steroid medications (known as iatrogenic Cushing’s disease)

Common symptoms of Cushing’s disease in dogs include:

  • Increased thirst and urination
  • Increased appetite
  • Weight gain
  • Increased panting
  • Potbellied appearance
  • Recurrent skin or urinary tract infections
  • Haircoat changes

Dogs Prone to Cushing’s Disease

Any dog can develop Cushing’s disease, but studies show that some dog breeds are diagnosed more frequently than others. Dog breeds prone to Cushing’s disease diagnosis include: [2, 3, 4]

Conversely, the same research shows that Golden retrievers, Labrador retrievers, French bulldogs, Rottweilers, and Great Danes have a lower incidence of Cushing’s disease. 

No genetic testing exists yet that can reveal whether a dog is likely to develop Cushing’s disease. But if you know your dog’s breed has a higher risk of hyperadrenocorticism, it’s a good idea to keep an eye out for early warning signs or symptoms.

Can You Prevent Cushing’s Disease in Dogs?

While you may be able to prevent the symptoms of Cushing’s syndrome in dogs, most cases of the disease are not preventable.

Currently, there’s no way to stop “naturally occurring” cases of Cushing’s disease, which are the most common. 

Scientists can’t tell what causes the pituitary or adrenal tumors in dogs that boost cortisol levels and lead to Cushing’s disease. The fact that certain breeds are prone to develop the disease suggests that there’s a genetic component, but not one we can control. 

However, pet parents can prevent cases of iatrogenic Cushing’s disease by limiting exposure to steroids. 

If your dog is prescribed any type of steroid medication, be sure to follow your veterinarian’s prescribing instructions closely to avoid overdosage. Use caution when administering over-the-counter steroid medications. And avoid giving your dog any type of steroid medication repeatedly or long-term, unless prescribed by a licensed veterinarian.

Additional research suggests that dogs who are middle-aged, obese, female, spayed, or neutered also face an increased risk of developing natural Cushing’s disease. [4] While you cannot prevent glandular tumors from developing in your dog, you may be able to minimize your dog’s risk of developing Cushing’s disease by:

  • Feeding your dog a complete and balanced dog food
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Exercising your dog daily
  • Visiting your veterinarian annually for a physical examination and routine bloodwork to detect problems early
  • Talking with your vet about the right time to spay or neuter your dog

Tips for Managing Cushing’s Disease in Dogs

Though you may not be able to prevent most cases of Cushing’s disease, there’s good news for parents of at-risk breeds. You can treat Cushing’s disease, and the treatment options are generally very successful in managing or curing the condition.

If you suspect that your dog has Cushing’s disease, please consult with your veterinarian and follow their testing recommendations. These can include lab work and imaging studies to determine if your dog has the disease and what type. Your treatment options may vary depending on your dog’s diagnosis. 

In dogs with iatrogenic Cushing’s disease, symptoms tend to resolve once you discontinue the steroid medication.

For dogs with natural Cushing’s disease, pet parents can choose from two treatment options.

If your dog has adrenal tumors, a veterinary surgeon can perform an adrenalectomy to remove them. If successful, the procedure eliminates any sign of Cushing’s disease. 

In cases of pituitary-dependant Cushing’s syndrome, or when surgery is not an option, there are medications like Vetadyl that block your dog’s ability to produce cortisol. Vetadyl is the first drug approved to treat both pituitary- and adrenal-dependent Cushing’s in dogs.

Dogs who take medication for Cushing’s disease typically continue the treatment for the rest of their lives. Most dogs respond well to therapy for years after diagnosis. 

If your pet is a dog breed prone to Cushing’s syndrome, knowing about the disease and its impact can help you provide the best care for your pup. Be sure to talk with your veterinarian about any concerns at your regular checkups. And don’t hesitate to ask about testing if you recognize symptoms of Cushing’s disease in your dog — whether it’s prevalent in their breed or not!


  1. Carotenuto, Gaia, et al. “Cushing’s syndrome-an epidemiological study based on a canine population of 21,281 dogs.” Open veterinary journal vol. 9,1 (2019): 27-32. doi:10.4314/ovj.v9i1.5
  2. Ling, G V et al. “Canine hyperadrenocorticism: pretreatment clinical and laboratory evaluation of 117 cases.” Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association vol. 174,11 (1979): 1211-5.
  3. Reusch, Claudia E. “New Treatment Options in Canine Cushing’s Syndrome .” Veterinary Information Network, Inc, WSAVA 2002 Congress, 2002, www.vin.com/doc/?id=3846172.
  4. Schofield, I., et al. “Frequency and Risk Factors for Naturally Occurring Cushing’s Syndrome in Dogs Attending UK Primary-care Practices.” Journal of Small Animal Practice, vol. 63, no. 4, 2022, pp. 265-274, https://doi.org/10.1111/jsap.13450. Accessed 21 Feb. 2024.