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Domest Anim Endocrinol. 2005 Apr;28(3):338-48. Epub 2005 Jan 11.

Hyperadrenocorticism in a dog due to ectopic secretion of adrenocorticotropic hormone.

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Department of Clinical Sciences of Companion Animals, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Utrecht University, Yalelaan 8, P.O. Box 80.154, 3508 TD Utrecht, The Netherlands.


Spontaneous hyperadrenocorticism in dogs is known to be the result of excessive secretion of adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) by the pituitary gland or excessive autonomous glucocorticoid secretion by an adrenocortical tumor. Here, we report on an 8-year-old German shepherd dog in which ACTH-dependent hyperadrenocorticism was a result of ectopic ACTH secretion and could be related to an abdominal neuroendocrine tumor. Hyperadrenocorticism was diagnosed on the basis of the history, clinical signs, and elevated urinary corticoid/creatinine ratios (UCCRs; 236 and 350 x 10(-6); reference range < 10 x 10(-6)). The UCCR remained elevated (226 x 10(-6)) after three oral doses of dexamethasone (0.1 mg/kg body weight) at 8-h intervals. Ultrasonography revealed two equivalently enlarged adrenal glands, consistent with adrenocortical hyperplasia. Plasma ACTH concentration was clearly elevated (159 and 188 ng/l; reference range 5-85 ng/l). Computed tomography (CT) revealed that the pituitary was not enlarged. These findings were interpreted as indicating dexamethasone-resistant pituitary-dependent hyperadrenocorticism. Transsphenoidal hypophysectomy was performed but within 2 weeks after surgery, there was exacerbation of the clinical signs of hyperadrenocorticism. Plasma ACTH concentration (281 ng/l) and UCCRs (1518 and 2176 x 10(-6)) were even higher than before surgery. Histological examination of the pituitary gland revealed no neoplasia. Stimulation of the pituitary with corticotropin-releasing hormone did not affect plasma ACTH and cortisol concentrations. Treatment with trilostane was started and restored normocorticism. CT of the pituitary fossa, 10 months after hypophysectomy, revealed an empty sella. Hence, it was presumed that there was ectopic secretion of ACTH. CT of the abdomen revealed a mass in the region of the pancreas and a few nodules in the liver. Partial pancreatectomy with adjacent lymph node extirpation was performed and the liver nodules were biopsied. Histological examination revealed a metastasized neuroendocrine tumor. Abdominal surgery was not curative and medical treatment with trilostane was continued. At 18 months after the abdominal surgery, the dog is still in good condition. In conclusion, the combination of (1) severe dexamethasone-resistant hyperadrenocorticism with elevated circulating ACTH levels, (2) definitive demonstration of the absence of pituitary neoplasia, and (3) an abdominal neuroendocrine tumor allowed the diagnosis of ectopic ACTH secretion.

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