Cushing’s Disease (Hyperadrenocorticism) in Boston Terriers

1. Pituitary-dependent Hyperadrenocorticism (PDH) is caused by the


presence of a tumor in the pituitary gland. This is the more common
form of Cushing’s disease accounting to more than 80 percent of cases
in dogs.

2. Adrenal-based Cushing’s disease is caused by the presence of an
adrenal tumor.

Another relatively little-known form of Cushing’s disease is said to be iatrogenic because it is a side effect of the administration of abnormally high doses of steroids on dogs. Unlike the first two forms, this form is reversible when the steroids are terminated.


Cases of Cushing’s disease have been shown to be more common in older dogs particularly those which are around six years old. However, any age of dog can be affected with the condition. A dog’s sex or breed does not have any influence on the incidence of Cushing’s disease.

Typically, Cushing’s disease is a chronic condition thus it takes a considerable length of time before typical signs can be observed. Most often, owners of dogs which are suffering from the disease attribute the symptoms as a sign of aging though there are dogs that don’t show any significant symptom of the condition.

The symptoms of Cushing’s disease include:

Polyuria –an increased in the frequency of urination
Polydipsia—an increased in the consumption of water
Polyphagia— increased appetite
Pot-bellied appearance – abdominal enlargement
Alopecia—thinning hair coat


Polydipsia and polyuria are commonly observed in more than 80% of Cushing’s disease cases in dogs. You may observe your dog consuming two to ten times their normal water consumption thus resulting in increased frequency of urination.

An increase in appetite affects more than 80 percent of dogs suffering from Cushing’s disease. You may find your previously behaved pet stealing food, rummaging for food in the garbage or begging even after a meal.

A pot-bellied appearance occurs as a result of a drastic shift of fat into the abdominal area and accompanied by wasting and weakening of the muscles of the abdomen.


Alopecia or hair loss is a progressive loss of hair that usually starts from the elbows and progressing towards the abdomen and flanks. When not spotted immediately, only the hairs on the head and limbs appear normal.

Your vet will do a battery of tests to your Boston Terrier to arrive at a correct diagnosis of Cushing’s disease. High alkaline phosphatase and liver enzymes, low levels of BUN, increased levels of cholesterol and diluted urine with a low specific gravity often point to Cushing’s.

The treatment regimen is aimed at the underlying cause. Adrenal tumors indicate surgical removal however more than 80% of the cases can benefit from non-surgical treatment including oral medications to correct the condition.