Canine Cushing's Case Files: The ins and outs of detection and treatment—Case file: Your veterinary team's role in identifying dogs with hyperadrenocorticism (Sponsored by Dechra Veterinary Products)

May 01, 2013
By staff

Every day, each member of your veterinary team plays an integral role in helping pets receive regular preventive care, identifying pets that need further veterinary evaluation, and ensuring patients receive appropriate follow-up care. When your technicians and other team members are well trained, they can help keep clients informed about signs of illness in their pets so diagnoses can be reached earlier and treatments initiated sooner.

Teach your team about Cushing's

Educating clients about the signs of disease in older pets is especially important, because clients often attribute clinical signs to "normal" aging, and their pets' health may in fact be deteriorating. For example, pet owners may misinterpret some clinical signs of hyperadrenocorticism (HAC, also known as Cushing's syndrome) such as lethargy and increased urination and drinking as normal, age-related changes. Therefore, team members should understand HAC so they are comfortable communicating with clients about identifying affected pets.

What is hyperadrenocorticism?
This article reviews basic information about canine HAC that team members should know to help veterinarians at the practice identify potential Cushing's patients. Your team should understand the different types of HAC (see boxed text "What is hyperadrenocorticism?" ), be aware of client comments that signal potential clinical signs of the disease, and help reinforce your message to clients about why multiple diagnostic tests may be needed.

Normal aging or "red flags?"

Your practice should already be educating clients about the importance of senior wellness examinations and diagnostic senior testing, which will uncover underlying illnesses in older dogs. The clinical signs of HAC and many other illnesses can develop slowly, and many owners may simply chalk them up to normal aging. This is where you need your team to be your eyes and ears.

Red flags raised during client conversations
Your technicians and receptionists should listen carefully when clients report signs of aging in their pets, and use their expertise to help identify these signs as initial "red flags" for the veterinarian. (See boxed text "Red flags raised during client conversations.") These signs can often have a profound effect on quality of life for the pet and of the owner.

Your team members are often the first to realize there may be a problem and should take the opportunity to engage owners in a conversation about their pet's behavior at home. If owners say that their dog is fine, that he's just acting old, a team member should inquire further about what owners mean by this. Technicians can start this conversation and help set the stage for veterinarians to get owner approval for diagnostic testing.