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Thread: Cushing's Disease Diagnosis

  1. #1
    Cavy Slave Smileandnod's Avatar
    Jun 12, 2018
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    Cushing's Disease Diagnosis

    Thanks to @GuineaPigPapa's urging, I am creating a thread for my Guinea Pig Lucy who was diagnosed with Cushing's Disease after a two year struggle trying to figure out her ailments.

    It is my hope that what information I can provide and keep updated will assist anyone else going through this journey. I am also hopeful that there may be knowledgeable owners and vets out there who may offer insight or their own experiences and perhaps we can work together to document more information about Cushing's in guinea pigs to help my Lucy too.

    We received her diagnosis of Cushing's Disease in July 2020 after driving 4 hours to the University Veterinary Health Center at the College of Veterinary Medicine at Kansas State University. She had a team of exotic veterinarians, both teachers and interns, working on her case. She spent two days at the hospital as they ran tests.

    They were very excited by her diagnosis because we were told only 6 other guinea pigs worldwide have been officially diagnosed with Cushing's Disease and written about in the literature. Lucy is now number 7. I suspect the limited amount of diagnosis is more to do with the lack of knowledge about the disease in guinea pigs and the cost & time of going through the process to get a diagnosis in the first place. Many of her symptoms mimic that of other conditions, so I believe that also has something to do with it as well.

    Lucy is estimated to be about 4 years old. We adopted her from a shelter almost 3 years ago and at the time they estimated her to be about a year old. She had been brought to the shelter with 36 other guinea pigs, a mix of males and females with most of the females pregnant including Lucy who had 4 healthy babies before we adopted her.

    Lucy when we first adopted her:Click image for larger version. 

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    It began with a thin fleshy white line on the bridge of her nose. Our first cavy vet then sent a sample to the lab, it came up as neither fungal nor bacterial, but we tried to treat anyway. So we treated her for fungal, but it didn't help. We treated her with antibiotics both oral and topical, it didn't help.

    By March 2018, the line on her nose got wider and longer. Spiked growths began to replace hair. Click image for larger version. 

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    We were referred to another exotics vet in the area who specialized in guinea pigs. We did more tests involving scrapings and even a small biopsy eventually which cut away some of the spikey growths. We again treated with different antibiotics, both oral and topical. We were hopeful that it was going to work, but once the area began to heal, the growths began to appear.

    She had surgery for a small cyst that developed on her right side which started to bother her and became a small abscess. Despite treatment under a vet's care, this cyst was continually reoccurring so we opted to remove it permanently via surgery in December 2019.

    The hair where her surgery was done began to grow back, but the hair around it began to fall out. We thought maybe she was reacting to the discomfort of the healing process. The hair loss got worse and eventually affected both her sides. Her stomach also became rounded and bloated looking while her neck to shoulder area became leaner.

    Our 2nd, 3rd and 4th exotics vets in our area felt that it was a case of ovarian cysts, but any cysts they could see were very small, but most times they were nonexistent so the outward clinical signs seemed to be ovarian cysts, but without a cyst being visible on an ultrasound the vets were left scratching their heads.

    So in July 2020 we traveled to the University Vet Hospital to go through further tests and hoped that they would determine it was cysts, do the operation and she would be better in no time ...but it still didn't explain the growths on her nose ...

    At the University they did X-rays, Ultrasounds and bloodwork but could not diagnose ovarian cysts because she didn't have ovarian cysts nor elevated hormone levels in her blood to indicate that was the problem. They did discover her adrenal glands were enlarged and the growth on her nose were keratin growths. We extended our hotel stay and approved more tests. They did ACTH stimulation tests to check her cortisol levels and kept her both for observation and to repeat the test the next day to be sure. The called with the diagnosis of Cushing's, but unfortunately due to the lack of professional information or knowledge we were left with more questions than answers.

    They wanted to treat her with a medication called trilostane. Unfortunately, only two other guinea pigs in the literature got this far, one who passed away before medication and the other one died within 2 months of treatment. The danger of the medication is finding the right dosage because it is generally used for dogs. Too low of a dosage would not help the Cushing's and too high a dose would lead to Addison's disease which is the opposite or even death. It is also unclear how guinea pigs process the medication, so we could be Ok for a bit and suddenly everything could go wrong. Also, my local cavy vet is not comfortable performing the ACTH test every 6 months as required while using the medication.

    Doing my own research, I read about Dogs with Cushing's being treated with CBD oil.

    We have decided to try the CBD oil as of now and have been treating Lucy for the past 4 months. Unfortunately with CBD oil being controversial in many areas, it is difficult to find a reliably tested source. We saw improvements using 2 drops twice a day using the 125mg oil where her hair began to grow back a bit, but then after the first month we saw a plateau and then hair loss again. We have increased the dosage to 4 drops twice a day as of now. The CBD oil can increase liver levels, so again we have to be careful not too cause more harm than good.

    I look forward to hearing from others who may have information and I will continue to update this post.

  2. "Thank you, Smileandnod, for this useful post," says:

  3. #2
    Cavy Champion Guinea Pig Papa's Avatar
    May 12, 2015
    Ontario, Canada
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    Re: Cushing's Disease Diagnosis

    Thank you so much for starting this thread, @Smileandnod.

    I just think if we can get as much information out there as we can with people and piggies experiences, it can only help others in the future. The only way to do that is to arm ourselves with knowledge, and that comes from people like you sharing information.

    I'm hoping there will be some progress made on Lucy's condition that will help her going forward. She's such a pretty little girl .

  4. "Thank you, Guinea Pig Papa, for this useful post," says:

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