By Dr. John De Jong / Ask the Vet | Sunday, March 4, 2012 | | Lifestyle

Dear Dr. John,

I own a dog that in the last eight to nine months has gained a lot of weight. The dog is now obese, drinking a lot of water and urinating frequently.

Last week, I took him to see my vet and he suggested that we do some blood work. The blood work indicated several possibilities. One was that further testing might be needed to determine if the dog has Cushing’s disease. The other issues were the possibilities of diabetes and low thyroid. There was also an increase in white blood cells, suggesting an infection.

The dog is 9 years old and has also lost his appetite a few times in the last two weeks. They put the dog on antibiotics and want to perform an X-ray to see why his appetite is unpredictable. Any thoughts? Should I pursue further testing or will I be wasting a small fortune with little hope for success at restoring my dog to what he was? Can the dog have all three things at once?— T.A.

Dear T.A.,

I get a few questions about Cushing’s disease. The symptoms are increased thirst and urination and often a distended abdomen and thinning fur. Hypothyroidism or low thyroid levels can also lead to a poor coat. A dog can have diseases simultaneously.

Depending on how high his blood sugar is, I would probably assess the Cushing’s first, starting with getting a urine sample to check the cortisol-to-creatinine ratio, then doing one of two tests — the low-dose dexamethasone suppression test or the ACTH stimulation test. Occasionally one needs to do all of the tests to confirm the disease. Once confirmed, there are many treatments available.

If the Cushing’s is controlled, the other symptoms may need treatment or may somewhat normalize. I would have an X-ray done to assess what is going on in your dog’s abdomen and see why his appetite is fluctuating.

Clearly your dog is one of those patients that needs attention in several areas and may have multiple complicating factors. Hopefully it can all be brought under control. I would suggest you have the workup done and go from there. Good luck!

John de Jong, D.V.M., is the owner/operator of Boston Mobile Veterinary Clinic and CEO/director at Boston Animal Hospital.

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