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Dog Hair Provides Hope of Non-Invasive Method for Diagnosing Canine Cushing's

Posted on Monday, 29 July 2013 02:02PM by Andi Godfrey

Dog hair is used to diagnose hyperadrenocorticism.
(Credit: Ouschan/Vetmeduni Vienna)

Veterinary research carried out at the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna has shown that analysis of a dog’s hair can provide a quick and reliable preliminary diagnosis of canine Cushing’s disease.  

Cushing’s disease, also known as hyperadrenocorticism, is a condition that can occur in both dogs and humans and results in an overproduction of group of hormones known as glucocorticoids.

Currently the diagnosis of canine Cushing’s disease involves taking blood samples, which only gives information about the level of hormone concentration at the time the sample is taken.  When an animal is stressed, it will tend to produce higher levels of cortisol than normal.

Knowing that glucocorticoids are present in human hair, Claudia Oschan and her colleagues at the University of Veterinary Medicine reasoned that a concentration of these hormones in dog hair may enable diagnosis of Cushing’s without causing the animal undue stress.

The researchers compared the levels of cortisol, corticosterone and cortisone in the hair of twelve dogs with Cushing’s disease and ten healthy dogs.  The results clearly showed that the level of these three hormones were significantly higher in the dogs suffering the condition than in the control group.

A normal production of glucocorticoids help with the mobilisation of the body’s fat reserves and increase the production of glucose in the liver which helps to maintain normal blood sugar levels.  They are essential for maintaining a healthy immune system, reducing inflammation and contributing to the health of bones, muscles and ligaments.  When glucocorticoids are being over-produced, the symptoms include over-eating, over-drinking, increased urination and a pot-bellied appearance as well as hair loss.  The disease tends to occur in older dogs and the symptoms are often overlooked by owners and veterinarians because the onset is so gradual.

The findings of this research provide hope that in the future rapid diagnosis of hyperadrenocorticism can be made by testing levels of cortisol in dogs’ hair rather than using invasive methods that can cause pain and distress.

RELATED ARTICLE: Canine Cushing's Disease

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