A study published in the April edition of the Journal of Small Animal Practice has found that the Border terrier, the Lhasa apso and Staffordshire bull terrier have increased odds of Cushing’s syndrome compared with crossbreed dogs in the UK primary-practice population.

In what researchers say was the largest study of its type to date, dogs with Cushing’s syndrome were identified from the electronic patient records of practices participating in the UK VetCompass programme during 2016.

Both pre-existing and incident cases of Cushing’s syndrome during 2016 were included to estimate the one-year period prevalence.

Available demographic data for study dogs included date of birth, sex, neuter status, breed and mean lifetime bodyweight above 18 months.

Multivariable binary logistic regression modelling was used to assess the associations between risk factors and Cushing’s syndrome. 

Dr Imogen Schofield, corresponding author for the paper, said: “A total of 1527 Cushing’s syndrome cases were identified in this study, from a population of 905,544 dogs in 2016.

"The estimated one-year period prevalence for Cushing’s syndrome in dogs was 0.17% (95% confidence interval 0.05 to 0.07).

“The findings of this study provide evidence from primary-care clinical records on the epidemiology of Cushing’s syndrome which can help primary-care veterinarians during diagnosis.

"Seven breeds were associated with increased odds of Cushing’s syndrome; the Bichon frise (OR=6.17, 95% CI 4.22 to 9.00), Border terrier (5.40, 95% CI 3.66 to 7.97), miniature schnauzer (3.05, 95% CI 1.67 to 5.57), Lhasa apso (2.52, 95% CI 1.49 to 4.28), Yorkshire terrier (1.82, 95% CI 1.23 to 2.70), Staffordshire bull terrier (1.52, 95% CI 1.08 to 2.13) and Jack Russell terrier (1.50, 95% CI 1.07 to 2.08).

"Four breeds were at decreased odds of Cushing’s syndrome: the Golden retriever (0.24, 95% CI 0.06 to 0.98), Labrador retriever (0.3, 95% CI 0.17 to 0.54), Border collie (0.32, 95% CI 0.13 to 0.78) and cocker spaniel (0.44, 95% CI 0.21 to 0.90), which could help vets in practice lower their index of suspicion for Cushing’s syndrome for these breeds.

"Dogs with a bodyweight higher than their breed-sex mean had 1.44 times the odds of Cushing’s syndrome than those within their breed mean (95% CI 1.17 to 1.78), suggesting either overweight dogs or larger examples of the breed are at increased risk of this condition, or that dogs with Cushing’s syndrome gain weight.” 

Nicola Di Girolamo, Editor of JSAP, said: “When we look at risk factor analysis in previous studies, the generalisability of their findings to the general population of dogs in the UK have typically been limited due to studying dogs from referral populations or due to a lack of multivariable analysis.

"The findings of this study help to address that knowledge gap, supporting some of the risk factors previously reported, and by identifying novel associations, such as that in the Border terrier.

"Awareness of breeds with high or low risk could help to enhance the index of suspicion for veterinary surgeons working in primary-care practice where Cushing’s syndrome is predominantly diagnosed and managed.”


  1. Schofield I, Brodbelt DC, Niessen SJM, Church DB, Geddes RF and O’Neill DG (2022) Frequency and risk factors for naturally occurring Cushing’s syndrome in dogs attending UK primary-care practices, 63 (4). Available at: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/jsap.13450 

Photo: BSAVA

PS: Whilst you're here, take a moment to see our latest job opportunities for vets.