With age, significant populations of dogs develop diseases and conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and even cancer. However, an even larger number of dogs suffer from hyperadrenocorticism also known as Cushing’s disease, caused by an excessive amount of hormones, glucocorticoids, in their body.
Historically, the cost of testing for Cushing’s disease and the stress a dog is put under was considered prohibitive. Often, pups were improperly diagnosed or rarely diagnosed at all.
With early symptoms similar to diabetes, such as excessive drinking and urination, and overeating resulting in a pot-bellied appearance and hair loss, vets could only suspect these animals had Cushing’s disease but weren’t necessarily sure.
But research by Claudia Ouschan and fellow researchers at the University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna have found a more cost effective, reliable, and non-invasive method to diagnose our pooch pals — hair samples.
“As the hormones are known to be present in hair, at least in humans, Ouschan reasoned that measuring glucocorticoid concentrations in dog hair might represent a way of diagnosing Cushing’s disease without causing the animals unnecessary distress,” reports Science Daily.
Using twelve dogs with hyperadrenocorticism and ten healthy dogs, Ouschan and her colleagues discovered that cortisol, corticosterone, and cortisone were at higher levels in the hair of dogs diagnosed with Cushing’s disease versus the dogs without.
“Measuring coritisol in hair is so much easier and less painful to the animal than other tests for the disease and we think it has real promise for use as a rapid and non-invasive method to diagnose hyperadrenocorticism,” said Ouschan.
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