best cbd oil for dogs with cushing’s disease

Cushing’s Disease in Dogs: Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatments

If you’re not familiar with the condition, Cushing’s Disease, also known as Cushing’s Syndrome in dogs, results from excessive production of cortisol in their body.

The adrenal glands or pituitary glands produce this particular hormone. The cortisol’s primary role is to assist your dog in responding to stress, but it also keeps its immune system healthy by regulating your dog’s metabolism.

There are three types of Cushing’s Disease, all of which have different causes. They are Pituitary-Dependent Hyperadrenocorticism (PDH), Adrenal-Dependent Hyperadrenocorticism (ADH), and Iatrogenic Hyperadrenocorticism (IHAC). PDH focuses on the tumor within the pituitary gland, while ADH focuses on the adrenal gland.

Cushing’s Disease is most prevalent in older dogs, but you can also see the disease in humans with similar symptoms.

Symptoms of Cushing’s Disease in dogs include:

  • excessive or constant panting
  • increased appetite
  • potbelly appearance
  • extreme unquenchable thirst
  • the slow hair growth or hair loss
  • skin infections
  • frequent urination
  • has thinning skin
  • weak and inactive

The primary treatment for Cushing’s Disease in dogs is usually surgery.

If the tumor within the pituitary gland or adrenal gland is not cancerous, your veterinarian will ordinarily be able to remove the growth and return your dog to total health.

However, with older dogs or inoperable cases, holistic and medical treatments are available to manage the symptoms of Cushing’s Syndrome well.

According to veterinarians, one of the most promising treatments is, and the easiest for you to do is to cook homemade dog food for your pet.

By switching your dog to homemade diet recipes, plenty of which you can find here, and feeding the dog at frequent intervals, you’ll help him to decrease these problematic symptoms substantially.

That’s a brief overview of Cushing’s Disease in dogs, but there is a lot more that you need to know if you know or suspect that your dog may have the condition.

This article will explain more about the disease, the breeds that suffer from a genetic predisposition, and the best diet for a dog diagnosed with Cushing’s Disease.

Cushing’s Disease in Dogs

symptoms, diagnosis, and best treatments

Before we get into the treatments, pet owners need to understand the basics of dogs with Cushing’s Disease and what the causes are.

What is Cushing’s Disease in Dogs?

According to research, Cushing’s Disease also called Cushing’s Syndrome or Hyperadrenocorticism (HAC), is one of canines’ most common endocrine system disorders.

Cushing’s Disease is a condition where there is excessive production of cortisol in the body. There are three types of it, each of which has specific reasons.

However, there are two primary forms of Cushing’s Syndrome, endogenous and exogenous.

Under endogenous form is Pituitary-Dependent Hyperadrenocorticism (PDH), which involves functional adenoma or the slow growth on the pituitary.

This is typically benign or non-cancerous and is quite common among 80% to 90% of animals, especially dogs and horses.

The tumor causes the pituitary gland to overproduce Adrenocorticotropic Hormone (ACTH), stimulating the adrenal glands to produce cortisol.

However, the pituitary gland will eventually minimize its ACTH production once it senses the increased cortisol levels, reducing its production.

Unfortunately, this confuses the dog’s body, causing it to shoot excess cortisol hormone levels into the bloodstream.

Consequently, it poisons your dog’s body, especially their vital systems, including the gastrointestinal system.

Another type of endogenous form is Adrenal-Dependent Hyperadrenocorticism (ADH) which involves a cancerous tumor on the adrenal gland. Although it’s not as common as PDH, ADH exists in about 15% of dogs with Cushing’s Syndrome.

Finally, the exogenous form, Iatrogenic Hyperadrenocorticism (IHAC), occurs when your dog has received excessive amounts of oral or injectable steroids in the past.

An unmoderated quantity of this substance can affect your dog’s cortisol production, even if they are for medical reasons.

Who Can Suffer from Cushing Disease?

Cushing’s Disease occurs in dogs, most commonly in middle-aged and older canines. Almost all dogs diagnosed with Cushing Syndrome are over eight years old, with the median age being ten.

Although Cushing’s Disease in dogs is primarily due to excessive cortisol production by the pituitary and adrenal glands, veterinarians have accidentally induced others.

One thing that veterinarians do is giving cortisone injections to dogs.

Cortisone is used in dogs to treat several conditions like skin problems, allergic reactions or inflammations, and Addison’s Disease. However, excessive cortisone may initiate Cushing’s Disease in dogs.

And, if you thought that was strange, wait until you hear an even rarer cause – steroid-containing ear drops.

Furthermore, certain dog breeds suffer from a genetic predisposition to Cushing’s Disease. The breeds most commonly observed as predisposed to this include:

  1. Poodle, especially Miniature Poodles
  2. Boxer
  3. Yorkshire Terrier
  4. Beagle
  5. Scottish Terrier
  6. Dachshund
  7. German Shepherd
  8. Labrador
  9. Boston Terrier
  10. Staffordshire Terrier

Common Symptoms of Cushing’s Disease in Dogs

Unfortunately, this condition can be complex for the owner to detect as there aren’t obvious symptoms such as fainting and coughing.

Instead, the symptoms of Cushing’s Disease in dogs can seem like typical issues that come along as your dog gets older.

Some research even suggests that canines that have been spayed or neutered are more at risk of developing this condition.

Below are the most common symptoms of Cushing’s Disease:

Excessive or constant panting

This symptom is due to an imbalance of cortisol, also known as the stress hormone. High levels of cortisol affect the immunity and organs, in this case, the lungs.

Increased appetite

Negative emotions attributed to weakness in movement may increase your dog’s food intake. It will cause them to eat more even if they’ve eaten enough already.

Potbelly appearance

Their potbelly appearance is usually from excessive bloating, one of the after-effects of too much cortisol hormone secretion.

Extreme unquenchable thirst

This symptom results from the abnormality of hormones within their body, particularly the lack of antidiuretic hormone.

The pituitary gland produces this hormone. It is also called polydipsia.

Slow hair growth and frequent hair loss

The slow hair growth and frequent hair loss are due to the decreasing hormone DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone), secreted by the adrenal glands.

Skin infections and thinning skin

Skin problems are also a consequence of imbalanced cortisol.

Frequent urination

Also known as polyuria, this symptom results from hormonal imbalance, such as unquenchable thirst.

Weak and inactive

Weakness and inactiveness are an effect of excess cortisol production; muscle spasms will be frequent, and your pet may have muscle weakness, which will lead to their inactivity.

All the symptoms above are very similar to those experienced by humans with Cushing’s Disease.

In addition, some studies found that the condition is almost identical between humans and dogs in how symptoms present themselves.

Diagnosing Cushing’s Disease in dogs

To diagnose Cushing’s Disease in dogs, your veterinarian will need to perform a complete physical exam.

They’ll also have to find out the canine history to see whether the symptoms correlate with normal aging or whether something has gone awry or suspicious.

First, your veterinarian will conduct urine, saliva, or blood tests for elevated cortisol levels or cortisol secretion.

Suppose it shows a high level of cortisol. In that case, they can then perform what we call the Adrenocorticotropin Hormone (ACTH) Stimulation Test, which will determine whether or not the excess cortisol level in your dog is due to Cushing’s Disease or something else.

They could also perform a Dexamethasone Suppression Test (DST), also known as Low dose dexamethasone suppression (LDDS).

It’s a test to check the hormone production stability, particularly cortisol levels. They use blood samples from your dog to determine if their cells will react to dexamethasone, a synthetic version of the hormone.

However, the tests mentioned above are not the only ones your dog will likely go through since many other diseases have similar symptoms.

Therefore, it also requires undergoing any tests that will examine their adrenal and pituitary glands.

Is Cushing’s Disease contagious?

Cushing’s Disease in dogs is caused by an imbalance of hormones, often due to a tumor on the pituitary gland and the adrenal gland.

Therefore, you can be confident that this condition cannot be contagious, and you, or even your other dogs, will not contract it.

Treatment for Cushing’s Disease in dogs

As noted above, Cushing’s Syndrome is due to a tumor growing in the pituitary or adrenal gland.

According to research, where the tumor is benign and surgery is an option, the recovery prognosis from the Disease is very high.

In some inoperable cases, radiation therapy can sometimes shrink the tumor when the owner chooses not to go for the surgery.

When the tumor shrinks, it will alleviate the intensity of the symptoms.

Furthermore, consulting with your veterinarian will help you develop the best action plan on treating your dog’s Cushing’s Disease.

One study showed promising results when 42 dogs took ketoconazole or retinoic acid as a treatment. Read further to know.

Radiation Treatment for Dogs with Cushing’s Disease

As mentioned earlier, radiation therapy is a non-surgical process for treating Cushing’s Disease, reducing the tumor size.

Overall, this method improves their condition and lessens the pituitary tumor or the adrenal tumor on their immune system.

It isn’t an effective way to remove the pituitary tumor or adrenal tumor itself, but rather only lessens the size of the tumor.

However, radiation treatment only serves as an option if your dog’s tumor affects them neurologically—if it doesn’t, you must skip this step for the safety of your dogs.

Bear in mind that a relapse may occur if this treatment is not administered regularly; thus, further endangering your dog’s health.

Additionally, there are cases that it won’t be effective, and they may need medical therapy.

Constant Medication

The hormone cortisol makes the body respond to a stimulus associated with stress. Thus, constat medication helps your dog achieve normal levels of cortisol without doing any surgical methods.

So have your vet prescribe medication and never miss a time to administer the medicine.

Avoiding Trendy Diets If Not Approved by Your Veterinarian

It’s essential to avoid any “fad” diets, such as Meat-Only Raw Food Diet, and consider the specific nutrient requirements the dog needs. Remember that only 11,000 years ago, our current day dog began to develop.

While starting as the noble wolf, they survived hunting and feeding on prey alone; today’s dog has a much more complex digestive system. As a result, they can break down a more varied diet, including rice and potatoes.

There are advocates of Raw Diets/BARF/etc. that still argue that dogs should eat a diet dating back to their wolf ancestors, primarily raw meat.

However, studies confirm that dogs are healthier when eating a diet with more variety and nutrition, gaining more nutrients than the suggested diet.

Switching to Homemade Dog Food

Dietary changes are one of the necessary treatments. For example, dogs with Cushing Syndrome have shown remarkable improvement in their overall quality of life when switched from their regular processed diet to a homemade diet consisting of fresh vegetables and meat.

It’s also beneficial to serve smaller meals every few hours instead of one large meal.

Owners of dogs with Cushing’s Disease are often given a homemade meal plan from their veterinarian and encouraged to try the new diet for a period of one month to two months before discounting it.

Some of the Benefits That Come Along with Feeding Your Dog Homemade Food Include:

1. Knowing what’s in your dog’s food – With homemade dog food, you know precisely what your dog is getting—fresh, wholesome, human-grade ingredients with no additives, preservatives, and no extra bulking agents.

Processing food typically removes or destroys nutrients and fiber present in whole foods that remain healthy.

2. Allergy safe – Human and canine co-evolution doesn’t stop at our bellies. An unfortunate predisposition that we share is allergies.

Just as we suffer from the corresponding sniffles, rashes, and tummy aches, our canine companions also can.

Your veterinarian can test your dog for allergies and help you find a diet plan that will meet his unique dietary requirements.

3. Lean body equals longer life – Sadly, our companion animals have also evolved to be susceptible to the same diseases that we battle with.

Struggles with obesity run rampant and are partly due to readily available processed food.

Several diseases are exasperated by weight gain, including Cushing Disease in dogs, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.

4. Save money – Cooking with human-grade ingredients for your dog doesn’t have to cost a lot.

For example, cooking from scratch once per week (or even once per month) and freezing portions can cost less than sacks of dog food for the same period.

Read more about the benefits and side effects of homemade dog food, and make sure you understand what a well-balanced homemade dog food meal consists of to avoid causing any further complications to your dog’s health. Always discuss this with your veterinarian.

Sample Cushing’s Dog Food Recipes

Sample Cushing’s Dog Food Recipes

Head over to our Dog Food Recipes Section for plenty of health and other dog food and dog treat recipes to get you started on your new home cooking adventure.

Below I’m sharing two popular recipes that are especially good for dogs suffering from Cushing’s.

Beef, Sweet Potato, and Pea Dog Food
  • ​3 lbs (raw weight), beef, cooked
  • 3 lbs sweet potato, cooked
  • 2 1/3 lbs peas, cooked
  • 7 teaspoons sunflower oil
Eggs, Macaroni, and Broccoli Dog Food
  • 3 eggs, hard-boiled
  • 1 cup macaroni, cooked
  • 1 cup broccoli, cooked

These recipes will still depend on your dog’s overall health condition. Thus, it is essential to have a serious discussion with your veterinarian to address this problem.

Home Remedies for Cushing’s Disease in Dogs

While you must discuss any possible medical treatment for Cushing’s Disease with your vet, many owners and veterinarians swear by natural treatments to increase the quality of life for their affected canines.

However, it’s important to note that these aren’t out and out cures for Cushing’s Disease in dogs but rather manage the symptoms.

Also, remember that because these treatments are along the lines of the holistic veterinary area, there is no scientific evidence whether they will work for your dog or not.

Best cbd oil for dogs with cushing’s disease

When something is wrong with your pet dog, it can be frustrating identifying the issue. If you presume or if your pet has been diagnosed with Cushing’s Disease, it can be a real puzzle knowing exactly how to treat it as well as help your dog feel their best. We hope this article can help shed some light on how CBD can help treat Cushing’s Disease.

What Triggers Cushing’s Disease?

Cushing’s Illness, which is also called hypercortisolism as well as hyperadrenocorticism, is an endocrine problem that causes your dog’s body to make too much cortisone or cortisol from the adrenal glands. Cortisol is a hormone that helps to control stress, anxiety, weight, infections, and blood glucose. Excessive cortisol can ruin your pet’s general health.

Cushing’s normally happens in middle-age or older dogs, there are 3 types of Cushing’s Diseases in dogs.

Growths on the adrenal gland also called adrenal reliant Cushing’s.
Tumours on the pituitary gland, which is also called pituitary-dependent Cushing’s.
Over-prescription of steroids, which is also described as iatrogenic Cushing’s disorder.

What Are the Symptoms of Cushing’s Disease?

Several symptoms of Cushing’s Illness resemble the signs of ageing. Signs of Cushing’s Illness include:

– Being thirstier than typical.
– Too much hunger.
– Too much urination as well as mishaps inside.
– Thinning skin.
– Too much panting.
– Hair loss or hair taking much longer to grow than normal.
– Obtaining a potbelly.
– Seeming much more exhausted or inactive.
– Getting skin infections or growths commonly, including growths and papillomata.

How Common is Cushing’s Disease?

Cushing’s Disease is relatively common in older dogs and is typically misdiagnosed. Many people think that the signs and symptoms are just part of their animal ageing, which creates missed medical diagnosis in most cases.

Cushing’s is more typical in specific breeds of dog. Breeds that are a lot more prone include beagles, Boston Terriers, fighters, Dachshunds, German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, Labradors, Poodles, Scottish and Yorkshire Terriers just to name a few.

To diagnose Cushing’s your vet will do blood work, an ACTH Excitement Test, or a Cortisol-Creatinine Proportion Test. These tests will try to find cortisol degrees in the blood and urine and are also often utilised together with an ultrasound to make the diagnosis.

Can CBD Treat Cushing’s Naturally?

The conventional approach utilised to treat Cushing’s Disease is a surgical treatment to eliminate the tumour. Surgical treatment can be harmful as well as invasive, particularly in older pet dogs, and medicines can create additional side-effects.

Hemx CBD Oil can help deal with Cushing’s Disease by treating the hormone discrepancy and shrinking, or even eliminating, the lumps causing the problem. Studies have indicated that CBD helps in the treatment of cancer as well as tumours.

Another current research study indicated that CBD helps in the development of malignant cells in mice with pancreatic and bladder cancer. Not just did CBD inhibit malignant cell development, it also aided in the prevention of future lumps. The conclusion of this research study kept in mind that CBD could be a sensible choice to deal with tumours in both pets and people.

From a hormone point of view, full-spectrum CBD removed functions to deal with the inequality which may be causing the lumps in the first place. This suggests CBD could correct the hormone inequality in pituitary as well as adrenal Cushing’s.

What Dosage Should I Start with When Treating Cushing’s Disease?

The most effective way to treat Cushing’s is with full-spectrum CBD that has a high concentration of cannabinoids and active CBD. We advise using our 1000mg full-spectrum CBD pet oil.

We have a useful Pet CBD Dosage Calculator which will help determine what dosage base to work from.

For the fastest and most comprehensive absorption, lift the lip and apply the dose straight onto the gum tissues, as the most direct means into the bloodstream. If added to food, the medication might not be as reliable and can take substantially longer to reach the bloodstream as it works its way through the intestinal system.

Cushing’s Disease: 4 Natural Remedies To Help Your Dog

Is your dog getting a pot belly and losing his hair as he gets older?

It might not mean he has male pattern baldness … or that he’s been getting too many snacks or not enough exercise!

A pot-bellied look and hair loss can be some signs of Cushing’s disease.

So … here’s some information about this condition.

What Is Cushing’s Disease?

There are three types of Cushing’s.

They all mean your dog’s adrenal glands produce too much of the stress hormone, cortisol. That’s called hyperadrenocorticism. The clue’s in the name … “hyper” means too much.

Note: Cushing’s is the opposite of Addison’s Disease, which is hypoadrenocorticism. That means the adrenals don’t produce enough (“hypo”) cortisol.

You may hear the term Cushing’s syndrome. That’s a broader term than Cushing’s disease. It means hyperadrenocorticism of any kind.

Types Of Cushing’s Disease

Pituitary-Dependent Hyperadrenocorticism (PDH)

As the name suggests, it’s caused by enlargement of the pituitary gland … usually due to a tumor on the gland.

The pituitary gland is a tiny gland at the base of the brain.

The pituitary gland controls the endocrine system. It makes a hormone called ACTH (adrenocorticotropic hormone). ACTH causes the adrenal glands to make cortisol. Another name for cortisol is glucocorticoids.

In Cushing’s disease, the pituitary gland is enlarged due to a tumor … so it produces too much ACTH. And it makes the adrenals produce too much cortisol.

It’s the most common form of Cushing’s … involving about 85-90% of cases. The tumors are usually benign.

The other, rarer kind is Atypical Cushing’s, or …

Adrenal-Dependent Hyperadrenocorticism (ADH)

This usually means there’s a tumor on the adrenal gland itself. This also causes the adrenals to produce too much cortisol.

There’s about a 50-50 chance these adrenal tumors will be malignant.

This adrenal Cushing’s is about 10-15% of cases.

And there’s a third kind …

Iatrogenic Cushing’s Syndrome

It’s caused by overuse of steroid drugs. That can happen even with steroids like eye or ear drops!

In fact one study described a dog who got it … from absorbing the topical steroids his owner used for her psoriasis. The owner said her 2 other dogs had died in the past 4 years. Both dogs were diabetic, and both had clinical signs that also suggest Cushing’s.

So be careful even if you use these topical steroids yourself.

It’s a Cushing’s lookalike condition but it’s a lot easier to manage.

Caution: always ask your vet about stopping any steroid drug. Usually your dog has to be weaned off them very gradually.

So let’s focus on the pituitary (PDH) and adrenal (ADH) Cushing’s.

Causes Of Cushing’s Disease In Dogs

So … why do dogs get Cushing’s?

Obviously … we know that a tumor on the pituitary or adrenal glands causes Cushing’s.

But none of the experts talk about what’s causing the tumors!

So … I asked holistic veterinarian Dr Patricia Jordan about her experience with Cushing’s.

Dr Jordan told me …

“I don’t see dogs with this disease that are not heavily vaccinated … or the offspring of heavily vaccinated parents.

“In fact, I have never seen a dog that wasn’t vaccinated and had Cushing’s”

Dr Jordan explained that vaccines can cause cancer. They dysregulate the immune system. And they can alter proper hormonal functioning.

She says patients develop hormonal diseases like Cushing’s … “after aggressive vaccination administration.”

She also commented that over-vaccination can cause blindness from SARDS (Sudden Acquired Retinal Degeneration).

“SARDS mimics Cushing’s and I believe there should be research into how these 2 diseases are related.”

Man-made radiation could also be a factor. It causes cancer. And it disrupts proper cell signaling … which can impact proper hormonal signaling.

So, aside from these factors … might your dog be susceptible to Cushing’s?

Types Of Dogs That Get Cushing’s

Dogs with Cushing’s disease are usually middle-aged or older … around 7 to 12 years old.

Breeds that get Cushing’s disease (pituitary) more often include …

  • Poodles, especially miniature poodles
  • Dachshunds
  • Boxers
  • Boston terriers
  • Yorkshire terriers
  • Staffordshire terriers

Adrenal tumors are more common in large breeds … with three times more females than males.

Spay/neuter may be a factor, although not a large one, and mostly in females. One 2017 study reported … spayed females had slightly higher odds than intact ones of getting Cushing’s. The odds for neutered males were minimally higher.

What if you suspect your dog might have Cushing’s?

Symptoms Of Cushing’s

Here are some of the more common symptoms of Cushing’s.

  • Very thirsty (polydipsia)
  • Lots of peeing (polyuria), accidents at night
  • Recurrent urinary tract infections
  • Increased hunger
  • Excessive panting
  • Pot belly
  • Obesity, with fat especially on neck and shoulders
  • Hair loss
  • Lack of energy
  • Muscle weakness, especially hind legs
  • Thin or darkened skin
  • Bruising
  • Hard, white scaly patches on the skin, elbows, etc.

So … if you notice a few of these symptoms, it’s time for the vet. Now for the hard part – diagnosing Cushing’s.

Diagnosis Of Cushing’s Disease In Dogs

Cushing’s is quite difficult to diagnose. There may be several stages to the tests your vet does when she suspects Cushing’s.

After a physical exam, she’ll do a regular blood chemistry panel and urinalys. These tests may offer additional signs that point to possible Cushing’s …

  • High alkaline phosphatase (ALP, SAP)
  • High alanine aminotransferase (ALT)
  • High cholesterol
  • High blood glucose
  • High neutrophils and lower lymphocytes
  • Protein in urine
  • Low specific gravity of urine (diluted because your dog’s drinking too much)

If your dog does have some suspicious lab results … as well as some of the symptoms I listed, then your vet may do some more testing.

Caution: If your dog has these kind of test results but none of the Cushing’s symptoms I listed … he may not have Cushing’s. If that’s the case, ask your veterinarian to explore other causes for the abnormal lab results. For example, thyroid problems are often mistaken for Cushing’s.

This is important. Vets are often on the lookout for Cushing’s … and it gets misdiagnosed. If that happens, your dog could get treatments (including drugs) that he doesn’t actually need.

If you and your vet agree it’s appropriate to do more testing for Cushing’s … these are the likely tests she’ll do.

Low Dose Dexamethasone Suppression (LDDS)

This is considered the most accurate test. False negative rates are only 5-8%. But it means your dog has to spend 8 hours in the clinic. Because of the stress this causes … this sensitive test often shows false positives. Here’s how the test works.

  • First they test the blood cortisol level
  • Then they give your dog a small injection of dexamethasone (a corticosteroid)
  • They re-test the blood cortisol levels at 4 and 8 hours

Here’s what test tells your vet …

In healthy dogs, the pituitary gland produces ACTH. That tells the adrenal glands to make cortisol. When cortisol increases, ACTH gets lower.

So when they give your dog the dexamethasone, the pituitary will stop producing ACTH. And the adrenals aren’t prompted to produce cortisol.

But if your dog has Cushing’s, cortisol is high all the time.

In a normal dog, the dexamethasone should suppress cortisol production. So the 4 and 8 hour tests will be lower.

If that doesn’t happen, then your dog may be producing too much cortisol on his own … meaning he has Cushing’s.

High Dose Dexamethasone Suppression (HDDS)

This test can differentiate between pituitary or adrenal disease in a dog who has Cushing’s. It uses a higher dosage of dexamethasone.

If cortisol levels are lower at the 4 and/or 8 hour samples … that confirms pituitary origin Cushing’s disease. If the levels are the same as the (higher) pre-injection sample, this confirms adrenal origin Cushing’s.

ACTH Stimulation Test

This is a popular test but it’s not very accurate for Cushing’s diagnosis. Some vets don’t recommend it. Dr Khalsa says the test misses about 20-30% of dogs with a pituitary condition and 50% with an adrenal tumor.

They’ll compare baseline cortisol levels vs 1-2 hours after an ACTH hormone injection. The injection should trigger the adrenals to release cortisol.

So if the test shows very high levels of cortisol, they may diagnose your dog with Cushing’s. But again, false negatives are common. And it doesn’t differentiate between the two types of Cushing’s.

Earlier I mentioned iatrogenic hyperadrenocorticism, caused by prolonged use of steroid drugs. The ACTH Stimulation Test is the preferred test to confirm this diagnosis.

Urine Cortisol:Creatinine Ratio (UCCR)

This test can also be inconclusive. If it’s negative, it does at least rule out Cushing’s. But stress can cause a false positive result. So it’s a good idea to get the urine sample at home.

Imaging

Other tests may include abdominal ultrasound, CT, or MRI.

  • Ultrasound may help identify adrenal tumors.
  • Pituitary tumors can be seen with MRI or CT scan.

Treating Your Dog’s Cushing’s Disease

If your dog’s Cushing’s diagnosis is confirmed, conventional treatment may involve …

  • Drugs
  • Surgery
  • Radiation

I’ll explain some the typical options. But then I’ll tell you about some natural alternatives to help you avoid these treatments.

Will Conventional Treatment Help?

First of all, will conventional treatment help your dog live longer? Not necessarily. According to the Merck Veterinary Manual these are the prognoses:

  • For dogs with pituitary Cushing’s, prognosis is about 2 years, with or without medical therapy.
  • Radiation treatment of pituitary tumors … or removal of the pituitary gland (hypophysectomy) has a better prognosis of 2-5 years.
  • Adrenal tumors can sometimes be removed with surgery, giving prognosis of 18 months.

Options For Conventional Cushing’s Treatment

The goal of conventional drugs for Cushing’s is two-fold:

  • To reduce the level of cortisol
  • To reduce pituitary or adrenal tumors

They all have their adverse reactions. Some are anti-cancer drugs with severe side effects. Anti-fungals like ketoconazole damage the liver and are no longer recommended.

Here are the main conventional drugs vets prescribe.

Mitotane (Lysodren®)

This is a chemotherapy drug with some harsh side effects. It’s used for pituitary and adrenal Cushing’s.

But adrenal tumors are often resistant to mitotane. Dogs may need 4 times the dose of mitotane to respond; and the results are less favorable.

If your dog takes this drug, he has to be monitored very carefully.

  • You’ll have to watch for signs of hypoadrenocorticism: anorexia, vomiting, and diarrhea.
  • You’ll monitor your dog’s eating and drinking.
  • Your vet will re-test cortisol levels after 7-10 days.
  • Your dog should see the vet every 3-4 months.
  • The dose may need to be gradually increased to maintain clinical remission.

Side effects include:

  • Vomiting
  • Anorexia
  • Neurological symptoms – ataxia, weakness, seizures
  • Low blood sugar
  • Depression

Trilostane (Vetoryl®)

This drug for PDH has fewer side effects than Mitotane.

But one severe one is that in some cases the drug has caused adrenal necrosis. This permanently destroys adrenal function …. so it’s a serious, irreversible side effect!

Other milder side effects can include …

  • Dehydration
  • Weakness
  • Low sodium
  • High potassium

Your dog may need to stop taking the drug and get fluids to recover from these problems.

Monitoring of trilostane treatment can also be tricky. Your vet may use the ACTH stimulation test to track your dog’s cortisol levels.

Other Treatments

Surgery and radiation are also often used in Cushing’s cases.

Surgery

The type of surgery depends on where the tumor is.

Pituitary

If your dog has PDH, removal of the pituitary gland (hypophysectomy) may be possible. If successful, symptoms improve quickly and prognosis is good.

But it’s a difficult surgery.

While 80% of these surgeries achieve remission, there’s about an 11% recurrence rate.

And there can be many other side effects after surgery.

  • Infection
  • Complications from rapid reversal of hyperadrenocorticism
  • Your dog will need thyroid drugs
  • He may need glucocorticoid drugs
  • He may develop diabetes, requiring insulin or other diabetes drugs

And of course, all of these drugs can create their own side effects!

Adrenal

Adrenal glands with tumors can sometimes be surgically removed as well. This applies to benign or malignant tumors.

But this isn’t a straightforward surgery either.

Anesthesia in these surgeries can be hard to manage. It’s complicated because … as soon as the tumor/gland is removed, your dog will develop hypoadrenocorticism (Addison’s).

That’s a problem in itself … and may cause secondary problems like …

  • Hyper- or hypotension
  • Arrhythmias
  • Vomiting
  • Esophagitis
  • Seizures
  • Pancreatitis
  • Acute renal failure
  • Cardiopulmonary arrest

As you can see, there are many very serious risks.

Median survival for dogs with malignant tumors after this surgery is 778 days. So it may buy some time with your dog.

But the death rate within 1 month after removing one adrenal gland is 14%–60%. The overall rate for cure for adrenal tumors is about 50%.

Radiation

If your dog has a large pituitary tumor plus neurological signs like seizures, stupor or anorexia … your vet may recommend radiation therapy of the pituitary gland.

Radiation therapy of pituitary tumors can be quite successful. But most dogs will also need one of the above drugs as well. This is to manage residual ACTH secretion.

Side effects of radiation treatment can include

  • Fatigue
  • Nausea and diarrhea
  • Skin problems
  • Hair loss
  • Blood cell changes.

And remember, radiation treatments use radioactive material that itself is carcinogenic.

There are newer types of radiation therapy such as cyberknife or gamma knife. These aren’t proven yet … but may be better than prior techniques.

They can treat pituitary tumors in less than 3 days. The side effects are minimal and death rates are low. But it can take several months for the signs of PDH to subside.

Long term outcomes are good though … because the pituitary tumor is controlled.

Iatrogenic Hyperadrenocorticism

This is a bit simpler. Usually, it’s cured once when the steroids are stopped (which must happen gradually).

Your vet will first change your dog’s drug to an oral, short acting steroid like prednisone. Then she’ll gradually taper the dose over several weeks.

She’ll do regular ACTH stimulation tests. This helps find out when you can discontinue steroid treatment.

Another problem with this is that the condition the steroids were treating may come back. So it’s a good idea to work with a holistic vet to find natural alternatives.

And speaking of natural alternatives, what are some that can help with your dog’s Cushing’s? It’s best to avoid the conventional treatments and their side effects.

Holistic Management Of Cushing’s

Always consider food as medicine, first and foremost!

Feed a fresh, whole food diet, preferably raw and organic, with pasture-raised meats.

These guidelines may improve Cushing’s symptoms.

Diet For Dogs With Cushing’s

  • High, digestible protein to prevent muscle wasting
  • Low fat to avoid high cholesterol and pancreatitis
  • Keep calcium lower to avoid bladder stones
  • Feed veggies and fruits

Ask your holistic vet for specific advice on foods too. Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM) practitioners are good experts to consult with.

4 Natural Therapies For Cushing’s

Which natural alternatives you choose will depend on your choice of holistic veterinarian or other practitioner.

  1. Herbs – Western or Chinese/TCVM
  2. Supplements
  3. Homeopathy
  4. Acupuncture

For all of these therapies … you’ll need to work with your holistic veterinarian, herbalist or homeopath.

Cushing’s is a serious condition needing careful management by an expert practitioner. Don’t try to do it on your own.

Here are some remedies you might expect your holistic professional to prescribe. Every veterinarian or herbalist will have their favorite herbs and supplements for Cushing’s.

Herbs

Chinese/TCVM Herbs

Drs Steve Marsden and Susan Wynn recommend Gingko biloba to reduce cortisol levels. They also recommend Chinese formulas such as …

  • Long Dan Xie Gan
  • Mai Men Dong Tang (Ophiopogon Root)

Dr Deva Khalsa also uses these Chinese herbs:

  • Rehmannia 11
  • Rehmannia 14
  • Ophiopogon Powder
  • Liver Happy

Dr Casey Damron, a herbalist veterinarian, also recommends these Chinese herbs.

Dr Lena McCullough uses these Chinese formulas:

  • Si Miao San
  • Eight Treasures
  • Liu Wei Di Huang Wan
  • Gingko biloba
Western Herbs

There’s a long list of Western herbs that can help with Cushing’s. Consult a herbalist for the best ones for your dog, as well as dosing.

Herbalists Mary L Wulff and Gregory L Tilford recommend herbs to support stressed organs and systems in the body. These include:

  • Dandelion root
  • Burdock root
  • Garlic
  • Nettle
  • Siberian ginseng
  • Kelp

Dr Patricia Jordan formulated a product for Pet Wellbeing. It’s to support adrenal gland function. It includes these herbs:

  • Ashwaganda root
  • Holy Basil leaf
  • Turmeric
  • Bacopa
  • Astragalus
  • Milk thistle
  • Blessed thistle
  • Chaste tree berry
  • Prickly ash bark
Herbs To Avoid

Tilford and Wulff recommend avoiding these herbs because they stimulate adrenal activity:

  • Licorice
  • Borage leaf

Supplements For Cushing’s Disease

There are a number of supplements that can help with Cushing’s symptoms.

Glandulars

Feeding glandular meats or supplements may help manage your dog’s adrenal function.

Feeding a specific organ or gland can often help support the functioning of the matching organ in the body. It may not be easy to get adrenal glands for your dog, but you can give a glandular supplement!

Melatonin and Lignans

Other holistic veterinarians, including Dr Marc Smith and Dr Casey Damron, find supplementing with melatonin and lignans helps manage Cushing’s.

  • Melatonin: regulates hormones, maintains circadian rhythms and provides antioxidants. Can help maintain coat.
  • Lignans: HMR lignans extracted from the Norwegian spruce tree convert to enterolactone. This acts as a phytoestrogen in the body. It causes downregulation of estrogen production from the adrenal gland … helping to manage Cushing’s.

Here’s how to dose this combination.

  • Dogs under 25 lbs – 1.5 mg once or twice daily
  • Medium to large dogs – 3 mg once or twice daily
  • Dogs over 100 lbs – 6 mg once or twice daily

Lignans (dosing recommended by University of Tennessee)

  • Dogs under 25 lbs – 10 mg daily
  • Medium to large dogs – 20 to 30 mg daily
  • Dogs over 100 lbs – 40 mg daily.

Studies show that another supplement, Phosphatidylserine, derived from lecithin, may support hypothalamo‐pituitary‐adrenal function and help reduce cortisol levels naturally. Ask your holistic vet about giving this to your dog.

Homeopathy

There are many remedies that may help, depending on your dog’s specific symptoms. Your homeopath will analyze your dog’s case and prescribe the appropriate remedy.

Here are some remedies your homeopath may use.

  • Quercus Robur: Derived from acorns. Helps with abdominal swelling, breathlessness and varicose veins.
  • Adrenalinum: Good for adrenal balance.
  • Arsenicum Album: helps with excessive thirst (often due to diabetic complications), digestive upset skin problems .
  • Pituitarum Posterium: helps with problems in the pituitary glands.
  • Sulphur: helps with pain, frequent urination (especially with diabetic complications of Cushing’s), skin and liver problems.
  • Chelidonium Majus: for liver, bile, and digestive issues.
  • Hepar Sulfuris Calcareum: for skin problems, abdominal distention or bloating, and liver problems.
  • Mercurius Solubilis: for digestive issues, jaundice, enlarged liver, vertigo, intense thirst, memory and thinking issues, and belching.

Homeopath Cheyanne West CHom, often uses these remedies.

  • Homeopathic Pituitary – This remedy is made from the posterior lobe of the pituitary gland and helps balance the actions of the gland. Dosing calls for low potencies (30c) over a long period of time and should be monitored closely.
  • Homeopathic Formic Acid has been very effective in early stages and has a history of restoring the health of the animal as well as restoring the coat. A potency of 6x has been most effective, given over a period of 1-2 months.

Acupuncture

Acupuncture can help as an adjunct therapy. It helps regulate the endocrine system. It can also reduce inflammation.

Dr Lena McCulloch says once a dog is stable, many Cushing’s dogs will only need acupuncture about every two months.

So … I hope now you can see that there’s hope for your dog with Cushing’s. Conventional treatments are by no means the only option.

Natural alternatives can help your dog’s Cushing’s symptoms … and preserve his quality of life!