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Diet for Dogs with Cushing’s Disease

Many dog owners are turning to a raw diet to help improve their dog’s health, especially when other options for treating Cushing’s in dogs have not seemed to help. Before starting a raw diet, be sure to consult your veterinarian. Read about the two sides of the raw diet theory below.

Raw Diet Advocates.
Many top breeders feed their dogs a raw diet. The raw diet theory advocates that dog health improves when reverting back to the diet of dogs before their domestication. Hunting dogs, beagles, Huskies, grey hounds and various other dog breeds are given raw meat by certain breeders. Many dog owners who have turned to natural and raw food for their dog have reported excellent results. Countless vets are proponents of raw diets as well. Healthy skin, coat, and teeth, smaller stool, less odor, and increased energy are some of the potential benefits of the raw diet. Almost all carnivorous animals eat raw meat and enjoy advantages that are not found or replicated in processed dog foods. An emphasis on the right fruits and vegetables, bones, and raw meats is increasing in popularity as knowledge of the raw diet spreads. As proponents of the raw diet increase, so too does the awareness of the potential harm in commercial pet foods, which are often grain based.

Raw Diet Critics
It is also believed that a raw diet may not be balanced enough over a long period of time. Some vets believe that a raw diet could cause dogs to get sick from possible bacteria in raw meat. Another problem with a raw diet is the potential for contaminating your kitchen. Proper cleanup is always required. Bones can be a hazard as well, as the risk of the dog choking or harming their teeth is a possibility. While some vets support the idea of a raw diet, the FDA and other mainstream vets do not recommend it. It is always necessary to discuss these options with a veterinarian as they will have an idea, based on the severity of the Cushings, if it can be beneficial for your dog.

Korbel

Is it right for your Dog?
Dogs have the necessary enzymes to kill bacteria in raw meat. They are born with these enzymes (contained in their mouth) that are meant to fight bacteria. Some vets believe that a dog may not have enough of the enzymes needed because they are not used to raw meat,  but very gradually starting a dog off on the raw diet will allow the dog to accumulate more of the bacteria killing enzymes. It should also be noted that people eat raw meat when stored in the proper conditions and that dogs can benefit as well. Be sure to give your dog good quality meat, and be sure to give your dog a chance to build up the necessary enzymes to destroy any latent bacteria.

You can mitigate the concerns regarding a non-balanced diet by ensuring that you not only feed your dog raw meat, but also raw vegetables, eggs, and small amounts of fruit and starches. Raw meats include raw beef, raw chicken, etc., and include muscle meat (sometimes still on the bone), bones (whole or ground), and/or organ meats (liver or kidneys). Small amounts of dairy may also be recommended i.e a probiotic yogurt with live and active cultures (which is good to mix with lignans if you give them to your dog with Cushings) as it can help with the absorption of the lignans read more about lignans for dogs here ). You can also give your dog dietary supplements if you worry about an incomplete diet. You can eliminate the concern of bone fragmentation by removing any bones; however, raw bones do not break as easily as cooked bones, so this is only a slight concern.

Supplements
Calcium and phosphorous are the most likely deficiencies with a raw diet.

What does a raw diet consist of?
For vegetables, broccoli, carrots, celery, green beans, lettuce, bok choy,  and spinach are recommended. Good fruits to try are apples (no skin, core, or seeds), berries, banana, pumpkin, watermelon, and others. Avoid seeds and rinds. Meat: kidneys, liver, muscle meat, and eggs for protein. Bones can be whole or even ground up. Yogurt is also a food to consider, especially if you are giving your dog flaxseed lignans for Cushings Disease. Yogurt with live active cultures is very beneficial in expediting the uptake of the lignan. Read more about lignans for dogs here. (Note: Fruits to avoid are grapes, avocados, tomatoes, citrus trees, and fruits with pits. Vegetables to avoid are onions, garlic, and mushrooms. Also avoid nuts and raw or green potatoes (cooked potatoes are okay on occasion; cooked sweet potatoes are actually quite good for dogs).

When your Dog has Cushing’s
Cushing’s in dogs can cause radical changes in your dog’s overall health and behavior. If your dog has Cushing’s disease, nutrition could help improve your dog’s condition, along with the right supplements. It is worth having a discussion with your vet to determine if the benefits of a raw diet outweigh the risks.  Trying the raw diet is not a permanent choice; if you don’t see the benefits, you can always change back to the dog’s previous diet.

What else can you do for your dog with Canine Cushing’s?
We provide several homeopathic options for alleviating the symptoms of Cushings in Dogs on our Holistic Treatment Options page. To read about natural treatments for Cushing’s Disease, click here

27 Responses so far.

  1. Michelle Abel says:

    Which raw diet is recommended for a dog which Cushings?

    • Cushings in Dogs says:

      A raw diet is sometimes recommended for dogs with Cushings and/or Atypical Cushing’s, which can include raw beef, raw chicken, raw liver, etc., along with eggs, and fruits and veggies that are safe for dogs. We always encourage readers to consult their veterinarian before changing their dog’s diet as their vet is most familiar with their particular case of Cushings.

      • Glynda Pomerantz says:

        I fed my two cushingoid dogs raw diet and they thrived on it. In my experience, general practice vets have limited knowledge/education on both canine cushing’s and nutrition. Asking a vet for nutritional recommendations will most likely to be met with a recommendation for a prescription diet piled high on their shelves, a very negative opinion of raw diets or a blank stare. If you want sound nutritional advice from a knowledgeable vet, find a board certified veterinary nutritionist who will formulate an appropriate diet for your dog.

  2. DTX says:

    Can you give an example of the raw diet? Exactly what type of meat?

    • Cushings in Dogs says:

      Raw meat would include raw beef, raw chicken, raw liver, etc. However, we always encourage readers to consult their vet before switching their dog’s diet as each Cushings case is different and their veterinarian will have a protocol on how best to manage the disease.

      • Carol Allen says:

        I cannot believe raw chicken should be given to any one, dog or human. I developed a very bad camplobacter infection from eating a very small amount of undercooked chicken.

        • Cushings in Dogs says:

          While people should never eat raw chicken, dogs have the enzymes that can kill the bacteria in raw meat whereas humans do not. However, this is one of the debates of the raw diet, whether too much exposure to conventional dog food has caused dogs to develop less of the necessary enzymes than their non-domesticated counterparts. This is one of the reasons a raw diet must be introduced slowly, in order to build the enzymes back up, and it is also why any changes in diet or treatment regimen should be discussed with the dog’s veterinarian as they are most familiar with each individual case. Some vets swear by the raw diet and strongly advocate it while others prefer more conventional dog food.

  3. Rebecca says:

    My dog has cushings and diabeties. Would he bennift from these suggestions as well?

    • Cushings in Dogs says:

      Oftentimes dogs with Cushings also have Diabetes. A raw diet could be worth looking into to see if it could be beneficial for your dog. We always recommend consulting your vet for any changes in diet or treatment regimen as they are most familiar with your dog’s particular case. Good luck!

  4. Denise Ostin says:

    I give my dog that has cushions disease mixed vegetables that are slightly heated do you think that is okay, plus I give her a hard boiled egg every day is that diet okay for her

    • Cushings in Dogs says:

      Eggs and veggies should be fine and a raw diet is sometimes recommended for dogs with Cushings (depending on each Cushings case), but we always suggest discussing diet and regimen with your veterinarian as they are more familiar with your dog in particular.

  5. Katie says:

    What can I put on my Maltese who is scratching and biting herself as the result of being on mitotane maintenance dose? She is creating sores on her lower back and is always smelly. I’m washing her weekly with Aloveen oatmeal shampoo and leave in conditioner. It’s not helping.
    Thanks in advance.

    • Cushings in Dogs says:

      It sounds like your dog is having some problems with allergies; your veterinarian would have a better idea on whether or not your dog needs allergy shots, medications, topicals, etc. as they are most familiar with your dog and we don’t know very much about skin conditions. If you have any questions about Cushing’s feel free to ask us and we’ll help to answer them as best as we can.

  6. amy says:

    Many sites and articles say that dogs with Cushing’s should avoid meat – beef, etc. – and instead eat salmon, cod and/or sardines as protein because the beef and other meats are inflammatory. Omega-3s in fish are anti-inflammatory. Do you agree with this? I find this very confusing.

    • Cushings in Dogs says:

      There is often conflicting information on the internet, as well as from veterinarians, about the best diet for dogs. Even among humans there are dozens of diet plans and debates on which is healthiest. The truth is that every person is different, just like every dog is different, and each Cushing’s case varies. Even the same animal will have different nutritional needs during his or her life time. We always recommend consulting your veterinarian as they are most familiar with your dog’s particular case. If you give your dog fish (i.e. salmon, cod, sardines), it could be beneficial as the omega 3’s and 6’s in fish are anti inflammatory, which can be helpful for many conditions. While it may not be critical to Cushings in particular, fish is applicable to the natural diet. Cushings is caused by a tumor on the pituitary or adrenal gland, which causes an excess production of cortiosl; therefore reducing cortisol is the chief concern. Sometimes experimentation with different diets is helpful and as always, we recommend following your vet’s advice since they are familiar with your dog.

  7. Jeff says:

    I give my dog with Cushing’s a white rice/beef/vegetable mix in the morning and dry food with cooked chicken at night. Do you think cutting out the dry food and rice would be beneficial?

    • Cushings in Dogs says:

      If the current diet you are giving your dog seems to be helping, sticking with it might be best. We recommend consulting your veterinarian as they are most familiar with your dog’s Cushings case. They’ll know best whether or not to start weening your dog off the rice and conventional food or if you should keep up with the current diet.

  8. Lois Jordan says:

    We adopted an 11 year old pom with cushings disease one year ago. So far, we have spent over $2000.00 for his care. I hear there is an organization that helps with dogs that have cancer. Is there one that helps with Cushings?

    • Cushings in Dogs says:

      We’re sorry to hear about your dog. We are not aware of any organizations providing financial aid for dogs with Cushings; however, you may be able to find some assistance online or through your vet. Pet insurance may also be something worth looking into in your case. Wishing you the best of luck.

  9. Pj Shaver says:

    When you say raw beef and chicken, do you mean just like buying a lb of ground chuck and a lb of ground chicken at the grocery? Would it hurt to bake or fry it? Worried about bacteria in raw meat. We have a 13 yr old corgi who may have cushings. Testing being done this week.

    • Cushings in Dogs says:

      The raw diet entails raw, uncooked meat. Fried would not be recommended for any dog. You can cook the meat; however, one of the reasons the raw diet is recommended is because food in its raw form contains more nutrients and some of these nutrients are lost in the cooking process. The bacteria in raw meat can be a concern and it is one of the reasons that the raw diet is met with skepticism at times; however, dogs have more of the enzymes required to kill the bacteria in raw meat. It’s possible that too much exposure to conventional dog foods has resulted in domesticated animals possessing less of the necessary enzymes than their counterparts, which is why it is always recommended to introduce raw food very slowly in order to build up these enzymes. We always instruct our readers to consult their veterinarian whenever switching their dog’s diet or regimen. Keep in mind that some veterinarians and breeders swear by it and others prefer traditional dog food. If you stick with traditional, try to find as natural a dry or canned food as possible with minimal fillers.

  10. Sue says:

    How much in MG to you give of each Milk Thistle/ Dandeline/ Ginko Biloba??

    • Cushings in Dogs says:

      We recommend seeking the help of a holistic veterinarian who is familiar with alternative methods as they will know the best dosage for your dog. Milk thistle is usually 1-2 mg per pound of body weight; however, your vet may have different recommendations since each Cushing’s case is different. Some research suggests 1 teaspoon of dandelion per 20 lbs of weight can be helpful, but again, this can vary and a liquid may be recommended for some dogs while some holistic vets may prefer dry herbs. The same goes for Gingko Biloba as it comes in different forms and may not be recommended in combination with certain foods or medications. It is important to consult your vet whenever introducing new supplements to your dog.

  11. Virginia says:

    My 15 year old female dog has cushings disease and an enlarged liver. What kind of diet would be best? Would suppliments help also?

    • Cushings in Dogs says:

      Some veterinarians recommend a raw diet for dogs with Cushings; however, some prefer more conventional dog food options. Check out our blog to read more on the raw diet debate, and always consult your veterinarian when it comes to changing your dog’s diet or treatment regimen. Changes to diet should also be introduced slowly.
      If you wish to go the supplement route, we would like to refer you to our natural treatment options page: You can read about a few different supplements on this page, including ones for liver support. Lignans and melatonin are the supplements that have been clinically tested and shown to be effective in reducing heightened cortisol levels in Cushingoid dogs. Good luck, and don’t forget to discuss your options with your veterinarian as each Cushing’s case varies and your vet is most familiar with your dog.

  12. Lauren Crystal says:

    Just find out my 10 year old dog may have Cushing’s. I am so conflicted on what to feed her now, hearing so many different things. Dandelion, gingko baloba, milk this, meletonin, lignans….? Stay away from purines. I don’t even know what that is……do the Raw food diet…..etc….
    Where do I even begin? Where do I order all the stuff from? Do I order the supplements specifically for dogs or can I just order any old ginko and milk thistle? And does dandelion come in powder form?
    It’s pretty upsetting…….
    Any advice is appreciated
    Lauren

    • Cushings in Dogs says:

      Hi Lauren, beginning your research can be overwhelming. We try to provide as much info as possible so our readers, along with their veterinarians, can make informed decisions. It’s important to remember that every Cushings case is different and every dog is different, just like humans, which is why certain diets and supplements work for some dogs and humans but not for others. Some vets and breeders swear by the raw diet and prefer it over conventional dog foods with synthetic ingredients and fillers, while others have their reservations. We always recommend consulting your vet before trying any new diet or regimen, and if possible, get multiple opinions from veterinarians who have examined your dog.

      As with any new regimen, be sure to introduce it to your dog slowly. If you want to go the natural route first, which is often recommended in the early stages because supplements like lignans and melatonin can be given when Cushings is only suspected, is a good source. Lignans for Life has a variety of products for dogs, including lignans, melatonin, and milk thistle. They do not carry dandelion, which does come in a powder or dry herb form, and they do not carry ginko biloba, but these can be found at any health food store. As always, we recommended discussing all of your options with your vet. Here are some helpful links in the meantime:


      We wish you luck in your search.

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