AI could help vets identify hard-to-diagnose endocrine disease

Artificial intelligence could help improve the diagnosis of Cushing’s syndrome in dogs, new research shows.

Cushing’s syndrome, or hyperadrenocorticism, is an endocrine disease in which the body overproduces the steroid hormone cortisol. It is fairly common in middle-aged and older dogs and in certain breeds, including the Bichon Frise, Yorkshire Terrier and Jack Russell Terrier.

Signs your dog may have Cushing’s include drinking lots and urinating frequently, hair loss, weight gain, panting and lethargy, changes to the skin’s appearance and abdominal swelling. However, these can also be signs of other conditions, making it hard to diagnose.

Jack Russell Terrier

Getting a correct and timely diagnosis is important for early commencement of appropriate treatment to improve the quality-of-life of affected dogs. Dogs with Cushing’s syndrome are also thought to be at increased risk of developing other diseases, such as diabetes mellitus, hypertension and pancreatitis, making a fast and accurate diagnosis even more important. Read our recent blog on the signs of diabetes in an older dog for possible causes. 

Seeking to address the diagnostic challenges, researchers at the Royal Veterinary College applied machine-learning algorithms to anonymised data from 939 dogs that were tested for Cushing’s syndrome.

They found that the technology could predict a vet’s diagnosis, and when used in clinical practice could contribute to improved diagnosis of Cushing’s syndrome in dogs.

It’s hoped that further development of these algorithms could lead to earlier, more reliable and cost-effective diagnoses, and therefore better clinical care for dogs with Cushing’s syndrome. The technology could also be applied to other clinical problems, the researchers said.

Just like humans, an older dog can develop age-related illnesses and become more susceptible to disease. At Petwise there’s no upper joining age limit for our dog insurance and no co-payment is applied regardless of the age of your pet. Why not get a quote today?