Skip to Main Content

Skipped to Main Content

Cushing’s Disease

Published on 28 Apr 2021

Alaskan Klee Kai dog with Cushing's disease feeling extreme thirst and panting.

What is Cushing’s disease?

Cushing’s disease or hyperadrenocorticism is a hormonal disorder that results in the adrenal gland producing too much cortisol. Cortisol is naturally produced by the adrenal glands and is required for normal body function.

An excess of cortisol, however, can occur naturally or be induced by certain types of medication.  

Cushing’s syndrome can be naturally occurring and this results from a tumour located either on an adrenal gland or the pituitary gland. Most cases of Cushing’s disease are associated with a pituitary tumour. 

Latrogenic Cushing’s (Cushing’s disease that is not associated with a tumour) can be induced by cortisone-based medications being given either orally, topically or by injection. In veterinary medicine, cortisone medications are used to manage many conditions; however, an excess can lead to iatrogenic Cushing’s disease. 

Who is affected?

Cushing’s disease is most common in small breed, middle aged to older dogs 

According to PetSure data (2020), Cushing’s disease is most prevalent in the following breeds: 

Bichon Frise2.17%
Lhasa Apso0.99%
Shih Tzu 0.96%
Miniature Poodle0.90%
Australian Terrier0.74%
West Highland White Terrier0.69%
Fox Terrier Smooth0.68%

Prevalence = Total number of unique claiming pets / total number of insured pets across 12-month period. Excludes breeds with less than 500 active pet insurance policies.

Signs of Cushing’s Disease  

Cushing’s disease can cause a potbellied appearance, increased thirst and urination, muscle weakness, hair loss, skin and ear infections, a ravenous appetite and calcinosis cutis (a skin condition that is caused by excessive calcium deposits in the skin).

The diagnosis of Cushing’s disease may require comprehensive blood testing, and an abdominal ultrasound. Once the cause of the Cushing’s has been determined, an appropriate treatment plan can be formulated by your regular vet.

Management of Cushing’s Disease 

Where an adrenal tumour is present, surgery may be the recommended treatment. 

Both the pituitary dependent and the adrenal based Cushing’s disease can be treated medically, however. 

Your vet will discuss the potential risks vs. benefits of the various treatments. 

The prognosis is dependent on the severity and type of Cushing’s disease as well as response to therapy.  Many pets have an excellent response to treatment. 

Treatment for naturally occurring Cushing’s disease is lifelong and your vet will discuss the long-term management plan with you.

How much does it cost to treat?

According to PetSure claims data in the 2020 calendar year, the average, single treatment cost relating to Cushing’s Disease was $284 with the highest, single treatment cost being $4,462. It is important to note that most cases of Cushing’s disease require ongoing management.

Disclaimer: Reimbursement for these claims would be subject to limits, such as annual benefit limits or sub-limits, benefit percentage, applicable waiting periods and any applicable excess. Cover is subject to the policy terms and conditions. You should consider the relevant Product Disclosure Statement or policy wording available from the relevant provider.

Terms, conditions, waiting periods, limits and exclusions apply. is issued by The Hollard Insurance Company Pty Ltd ABN 78 090 584 473, AFSL 241436, is arranged and administered by PetSure (Australia) Pty Ltd ABN 95 075 949 923, AFSL 420183 (PetSure) and is promoted and distributed by PetSure’s Authorised Representatives (AR) Pet Insurance Pty Ltd ABN 38 607 160 930, AR 1234944 and Pet Culture Pty Ltd ABN 69 644 613 098, AR 001284860. Any advice provided is general only and does not take into account your individual objectives, financial situation or needs. Please consider the Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) to ensure this product meets your needs before purchasing. PDS and Target Market Determination available at .

Kylie Mitchell

Kylie Mitchell


Kylie Mitchell is a veterinarian with over 17 years experience in animal health and welfare, including in the veterinary and pet insurance industries

She has three rescue cats (Noah, Bei Bei and Meeka), four very old cockatiels and a pond-full of fish.

Kylie Mitchell's Pets

  • MeekaMeeka
  • Bei BeiBei Bei
  • NoahNoah