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    When Your Dog Has Cushing's Disease

    If your furry family member has been diagnosed with Hyperadrenocorticism (aka Cushing's Disease), hopefully our site can help answer questions about the disease and highlight some treatment options.

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Read about the first symptoms a dog with Cushing's Disease might start to show and when to take your furry family member to the vet.

Natural Treatment Options

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Learn about new and natural treatment options for your dog with Cushings. Exciting new studies show promising results in treating the disease holistically, without the use of chemotherapy drugs.

Medical Treatments

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Find out the current medications that vets are using to treat dogs with Cushings Disease and Atypical Cushings Disease, which ones are most effective, and which ones have the least side effects.

Cushings Disease in Dogs

Cushing’s disease in dogs is usually caused by either a tumor in the adrenal gland or a tumor in the pituitary gland.  In both cases of Typical Cushings, the end result is the same: excess cortisol production. Cortisol is a stress hormone naturally produced in the adrenal gland.  If there is a tumor touching the adrenal gland, the adrenal gland is stimulated to produce cortisol. This can result in an overproduction of cortisol where the affected dog is in a constant, elevated state of stress. The tumors causing the disease are not necessarily cancerous; they could be benign tumors that push on the pituitary or adrenal gland and over-stimulate the adrenal gland. Treatment should be considered either way. Surgery is the only real cure for Cushings in dogs, but in most cases, surgery is not an option. 80% of Cushings cases involve a tumor in the pituitary gland, which is located in the brain. Brain surgery on dogs is not recommended due to the high risk and exorbitant cost. Surgery on adrenal gland tumors is usually too dangerous as well. It is often recommended to explore natural, less expensive, homeopathic treatment options for Cushings. Treatment of Cushings in dogs is a matter of managing symptoms. If the heightened cortisol levels in dogs with Cushings can be controlled, then some or even all of the symptoms can be controlled as well. Cushings in dogs is an extremely common hormone problem that generally affects older dogs. While Cushing's is not necessarily fatal, it can cause extreme discomfort and other complications that can lead to premature death. Many look to natural or homeopathic treatment remedies to help alleviate Cushings symptoms.

Symptoms of Cushing’s in Dogs

Some of the most common symptoms of Cushing's in dogs are: excessive water drinking and urination (referred to as PU/PD), ravenous appetite, loss of hair, muscle weakness, panting, skin problems, and lesions on the skin (especially on the belly). Another symptom associated with Cushings is a bloated/expanded belly. Dogs with Cushing’s may appear to have experienced weight gain or loss, but it is usually more of a redistribution of weight, where more weight is carried in the tummy and the dog experiences a loss in muscle tone.  Energy levels can vary depending on the stage of the disease.  At first, as a result of the elevated cortisol levels, dogs with Cushing’s may be hyperactive, causing ravenous eating and drinking, but after long periods of excessive cortisol, activity levels may drop and dogs with Cushing’s can burn out and become lethargic. Natural treatment can help alleviate these symptoms.

What is Cushing’s in Dogs

In its most basic form, Cushing’s disease is a hormone problem that causes the endocrine system to produce too many corticosteroids, otherwise known as Cortisol. This causes atypical growth of certain parts of the dog’s body, while also engendering several extremely uncomfortable and problematic symptoms (see symptoms above). Unfortunately Cushings is not strictly curable, but it can be treated. Symptoms can be addressed with chemo drugs or natural holistic supplements.

Different Types of Cushing’s Disease

Though Cushings disease in dogs is mainly classified as a single disease, there are two separate causes, resulting in a dichotomy in treatment and overall classification: the causes are pituitary and adrenal.
  • Pituitary Dependent Cushing’s Disease: The majority of Cushing's cases involve Pituitary Cushing’s in dogs. This is caused by a tumor located just below the brain (near the pituitary gland).
  • Adrenal Dependent Cushing’s Disease: The other, less common type of Cushing's is caused by a tumor forming in one or both of the adrenal glands.
Pituitary tumors are common in small breeds, while adrenal tumors are common in big dogs. Both PD Cushing’s disease and AD Cushing disease in dogs have similar symptoms and are treated in similar fashions; however, treatments slightly vary based on type and severity.

What types of dogs are most susceptible to Cushing’s Disease?

Cushing’s in dogs usually affects elderly dogs (with an average diagnosis of around 10-11 years old and the youngest being around 5 years old). Females are more susceptible than males. All breeds are susceptible, but dog breeds higher at risk are Boston, Yorkshire, Bull, Silky and Scottish Terriers, German Shepherds, Poodles, Dachshunds, Jack Russells, Staffordshires, and Beagles.

Atypical Cushing’s Disease in Dogs:

Atypical Cushings disease is caused by an adrenal gland tumor (as with regular Cushings), but with Atypical Cushings, there is no overproduction of Cortisol. Canines with Atypical Cushings still show normal Cushings syndrome symptoms, but rather than excess cortisol, Atypical Cushings dogs experience heightened levels of sex steroids (i.e. estradiol, progesterone, aldosterone). Aromatase enzyme inhibitors (i.e. melatonin and some chemotherapy drugs) can decrease estradiol, the sex steroid responsible for many of the symptoms of Cushings Disease. Studies have shown that treatment with flaxseed lignans and melatonin can be very effective in both cases of Atypical Cushings and Cushings.  The University of Tennessee (an authority on adrenal disorders and a leader in breakthroughs in Cushings treatments) conducted a study led by Kelly Fecteaus, Head of Endocrinology, to test the effectiveness of lignans and melatonin on Cushings in Dogs and found that  the combination of lignans and melatonin  not only reduce cortisol, but act directly upon adrenal tumor cells,  effectively treating both typical and atypical cushings disease. Click here to read more about the study

 What Can You Do?

Responding to Cushings or discovering if your dog has Cushing's requires finding out as much information as possible and consulting your veterinarian. Cushing’s disease can be treated; but, if the right steps are not taken, the dog will suffer. We are here to help increase Cushings awareness on treatment opinions, historical information, symptoms and studies based on the disease. We hope to give you the information you need to put you on the right path towards dealing with Cushing disease in dogs.

Click here to read more about natural, holistic treatment options    Click here to read more about medical treatment options