Cushing’s disease, more accurately known as Hyperadrenocorticism (or HAC), occurs as a result of an increase in the level of cortisol (produced by the adrenal glands) circulating in the blood, coupled with a failure of the mechanism that normally controls the level within the limits determined by physiological needs.
It is a complex disease that is not easy to diagnose and that can readily be confused with other conditions presenting similar symptoms.
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The skin on the pads of a dog’s foot is thicker than the rest of its body and the cells are (reinforced) by a protein called Keratin. In some dogs this process is exaggerated, and they produce large amounts of excess skin which is rich in Keratin. This results in corny and cracked pads. The corns are very painful, and the cracks can go right down to the living basal layer of the skin. The condition is present for life. The cracks are very different from the small superficial cracks found in most dogs that are walked on the road.
Fortunately, a genetic abnormality related to this condition has been identified. The best method of avoiding it is to check that both parents have been tested for the abnormal gene. The cost of the test will probably be reflected in the price of the puppy, but animal welfare should come first.
The test can be carried out in this country by a cheek swab available from Animal DNA Diagnostics. They have their own website and an email address od [email protected] or speak to June on 01223 395577. It is possible that soon other firms may also offer this test.
There are a few other conditions that can look a little like hyperkeratosis, such as some forms of dermatitis, especially one associated with low levels of zinc in the body. If you have any doubts, visit your vet or check out the numerous photos available on the internet.
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