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Cushings in Dogs: Treatment Options Overview

There are numerous treatment options to consider for dogs that have been diagnosed with Cushings disease, also known as canine cushings disease and hyperadrenocorticism. These options are conventional medicinal treatments, natural and herbal treatments, and/or surgery (but only in extremely rare cases). Due to the fact that Cushings in dogs can be difficult to diagnose, oftentimes a natural treatment is recommended by veterinarians. Natural, holistic treatment options for Cushings in dogs are gentle on aging dogs and can be used if Cushing’s is only suspected. Natural treatment options are also less expensive and they have a high success rate. Exploring homeopathic options for Cushing’s in dogs is usually the first route as these options possess the added benefit of little to no side effects.

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Natural treatments: Natural remedies for Cushings in dogs/natural treatment options include melatonin, lignans, milk thistle, and SAMe. These dietary supplements have little to no side effects and are often used as a first treatment option for Cushing’s disease. Cortisol, the stress hormone, is produced in excess in Cushingoid dogs, which is the cause of most of the symptoms. Controlling the amount of cortisol means controlling the symptoms. Flaxseed lignans and melatonin both inhibit different enzymes needed in the production of cortisol. In restoring hormone levels back to normal, flaxseed lignans and melatonin can help manage the symptoms. Studies have 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. Milk thistle and SAMe are dietary supplements that help support the liver. Liver support is beneficial for dogs with Cushing’s because the disease puts a great deal of stress on the liver, causing it to become overworked.

Click here to read testimonials on natural Cushing’s treatment options. You can read about real life experiences treating Canine Cushings Disease with lignans, melatonin, and more.

Conventional treatments: These include Lysodren, Ketoconozole, and Trilostane. Although they can be effective, it is important to remember that they are chemotherapy drugs. They can be expensive and much care is needed in monitoring the results. These drugs are used to deliberately damage the outer adrenal cortex to reduce cortisol production. If the dosage is too high or if the medication is administered for an extended period of time, the adrenal gland can be damaged to the point where it stops producing cortisol all together. This causes Addison’s disease, the opposite of Cushing’s disease, and monthly monitoring and steroid injections would be needed to make up for the cortisol deficit if this occurs. To ensure these chemotherapy drugs only reduce cortisol rather than eliminating it, and to confirm that they do not cause excessive damage to the adrenal gland, frequent monitoring and testing is required.
Surgery: Cushings in dogs is caused by either a tumor in the adrenal gland or a tumor in the pituitary gland. Because of the pituitary gland’s location, the removal of the tumor would require brain surgery, which is not performed on dogs. This procedure would be extremely risky and the cost would be astronomical. While surgery on the pituitary gland is not done, adrenal gland tumor surgery can be performed; however, it is rare because of the aforementioned risk and cost.

25 Responses so far.

  1. christina owens says:

    I’m using Trilostane for 2 mo. for my Yorkie. She’s already lost 2 #. One more month of this and then switching to natural supplements recommended here. Do you need to give this trmt. for the life of the dog? Where’s the place to get these supplements?
    Thankyou for your help!

    • Cushings in Dogs says:

      When a dog has Cushing’s, treatment is recommended for the rest of the dog’s life in order to manage the symptoms. Unfortunately there is no cure for the disease – aside from extremely expensive and risky surgeries, which are very rarely suggested. This is another reason natural treatment options are often considered: they are inexpensive and more gentle than conventional medications, therefore using them for an extended period is more manageable. We highly encourage you to consult your vet about switching (if you haven’t already) as they are more familiar with your dog’s particular case since each one is different. As far as a good source for lignans and melatonin, we recommend http://www.lignans.net/ They provide quality products and valuable information.

      • Ann London says:

        My doxie is 12 and she’s doing ok on Vetoryl. She can’t seem to settle down into a comfy position for a nap or just to sit, day or night. Is this a Cushings symptom? Any suggestions?

        • Cushings in Dogs says:

          Restlessness and pacing can be a Cushing’s symptom due to the excess Cortisol (the stress hormone). Supplements like melatonin can help; however, we recommend discussing this with your veterinarian if the Vetoryl hasn’t been able to address this symptom.

    • Molly says:

      On Amazon is where I get them. All delivered to you without you having to go find them. Lignans for life, petalive Cushex drops. Youcan also get sam-e there as well as melatonin

  2. Eva says:

    How much melotin or milk thistle do you give a 100 lbs dog

    • Cushings in Dogs says:

      As per the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Tennessee, who developed the protocol for treating Cushings with lignans and melatonin, recommended dosage for melatonin is 3 mg every 12 hours for dogs under 30 lbs and 6 mg every 12 hours for dogs over 30 lbs. Based on this suggestion, your dog would take 6 mg every 12 hours to keep the melatonin at a constant level in the body. We suggest consulting your vet to make sure this falls in line with their recommended treatment practice.
      Recommended dosage for Milk Thistle is approximately 2 mg per pound of body weight, so your dog could potentially have up to 200 mg of milk thistle; however, as stated above, we always encourage readers to consult their veterinarian when introducing any new supplement to their dog’s diet.

  3. Jacqueline Ginetz says:

    Can you apply the same holistic treatments to either adrenal or pituitary cushings disease?

    • Cushings in Dogs says:

      Holistic treatments can be used for either; however, every Cushings case is different. We always recommend consulting your vet as they are most familiar with the severity of your dog’s particular case.

  4. Larry says:

    I just lost my Border Terrier to Cushings. We tried traditional as well as Holistic Medicine, but in the end I couldn’t help her.
    I wish I had found this website sooner.

    • Cushings in Dogs says:

      We are sorry to hear about your dog. There are far too many Cushings cases each year and we hope to continue raising awareness of the disease.

  5. Norma says:

    My dog is on medication for Cushings. He still does a lot heavy panting. Will that ever subside?

    • Cushings in Dogs says:

      When a dog has Cushing’s, they will have it for life. Even if they are on medication, the tumor will still remain, therefore the symptoms can linger. It is tough to say if the panting will subside since we are not familiar with your dog’s particular case and every dog is different, so you’ll have to consult your vet. But we can tell you that regardless of whether you are using conventional or holistic treatments, the goal remains the same: to reduce excess Cortisol, thus managing the symptoms. If you are using conventional medicine, oftentimes people will use holistic treatments at the same time to help manage the symptoms. If you do not feel that your current medication is helping enough, it might be time to talk to your vet about trying something different or introducing some natural supplements to see if they can help manage some or all of the symptoms. Best of luck!

  6. Carol says:

    My dog uses Vetryol from vet. 1 and half years ago i found a chriopractor that does frequency specific microcurrent(fsm) . He has shown great improvement and vet says he is symptom free. He gets raw diet and some nutrional supplements

    • Cushings in Dogs says:

      Thank you for your comment, Carol! What supplements do you give your dog?

    • Hi Carol….what breed is your dog…wondering if small breed? Our yorkie is in need of help asap….vet suggesting Vetryol. Trying to decide whether to use this or homeopathic remedies. How long as your dog been on Vetryol?

  7. Web Hosting says:

    Surgical techniques to remove pituitary tumors in dogs are being studied, but surgery is not a widely available option.

  8. Jan says:

    I currently have my Shih-Tzu on K9 Choice Melatonin 3mg 2x daily and HMR Lignans 20mg 1x daily. If I added Milk Thistle and SAMe, what would the dosage be for a dog that weighs 14 lbs.? While I’ve seen quite a positive change in my 8 year old, such as energy, alertness, no excessive panting or snoring and weight loss, he still acts famished and downs his food in a matter of seconds. His water consumption is still somewhat more than pre-Cushings but less than it has been post-Cushings. I had started him out on Vetoryl but after just 6 months there wasn’t any notable difference had he started having negative effects so I switched him to the Melatonin and Lignans about 3 months ago. He goes in to see the vet in a week to have his Cortisol levels checked. It will be interesting to see how improved they may be. I also stopped grains and dry kibble and plan on putting him on a raw diet once we have cortisol levels checked.

    • Cushings in Dogs says:

      Hi Jan, we are glad the lignans and melatonin have been able to help manage some of the symptoms. Recommended dosage for SAMe would be about 100 mg for a dog that size, but every case is different, so we recommend checking with your vet to see if they have any specific instructions regarding liver support. Milk thistle is usually about 2 mg per lb of body weight, but again, you’ll want to consult your veterinarian to see what they think for your dog’s particular case. Good luck!

  9. Sean F Foley says:

    Is there a cause for Cushine’s and how long can a dog live with it? My dog is a 70 lb, 11 year old male lab mix.

    • Cushings in Dogs says:

      Cushings is usually caused by an adrenal or pituitary gland tumor. This results in an excess production of Cortisol, the stress hormone. The heightened Cortisol levels cause dogs to experience common Cushings symptoms like hair loss, panting, excess hunger and thirst, etc. Fortunately, oftentimes Cushings symptoms can be managed. Every dog is different, as is each Cushings case. Some people are able to find a treatment regimen to help extend their dog’s life by years, others are not as fortunate. We recommend getting multiple opinions from veterinarians to find the best recourse. In the meantime, check out our Holistic Treatment Options Page, our Medical Treatment Options Page, and our Vet Recommended Treatment Options Page. All of these links can be found at the top of this page. Good luck!

  10. Mila says:

    My dog just got diagnosed with Cushing’s a month ago. He is on milk thistle, lignans and melatonin with other herbal supplements. However, I got really worried with his liver enzymes, They’re so high. And the pot belly seems disturbing too. Please help recommend other ways to protect the liver. He’s also on a grain-free diet already.

    • Cushings in Dogs says:

      We’re sorry to hear about your dog. Since you are going the natural route, another supplement that’s worth looking into and worth discussing with your vet is SAMe. This, in conjunction with milk thistle, can help support the liver and may be able to help lower those enzymes. Also keep in mind that it can take up to a few months to see results with some medications and supplements. If you don’t see improvements after a few months, it may be time to switch up the regimen, but we always recommend discussing all options with your vet as they are most familiar with your dog and each Cushings case is different. Good luck!

  11. Dianne says:

    I have a 10 1/2 year old black lab that may or may not have Cushings disease. Her most recent blood panels showed signs of elevated liver enzymes among other things. She had an abdominal ultrasound last week that showed nodules on her adrenal glands as well as a mass on her spleen. I am considering testing her for Cushings, but would not want to subject her to the more harsh conventional medicines. I would definitely try the natural holistic route. My concern is that her spleen and or liver could be compromised by cancer. They want to remove the spleen if they can control the Cushings but I won’t put her through a harsh surgery.
    She really hasn’t presented any major symptoms at this point. She has always gobbled down her food and drinks a good amount of water. Her urination habits do not seem out of the ordinary. Does it make sense to pass on the expensive testing and try and talk to the vet about holistic methods instead. I just lost our other dog last week from other issues so dealing with that grief and this now is overwhelming…

    • Cushings in Dogs says:

      We’re sorry to hear about your dog. We always recommend discussing all of your options with your veterinarian as it may be worth it to explore alternative treatment regimens, as opposed to trying anything too extreme. It may also be beneficial to talk to your vet about getting your dog on some liver supplements (i.e. SAMe and/or Milk Thistle). The natural supplements for Cushings (i.e. lignans and melatonin) can be given to your dog even if Cushing’s is only suspected because they are natural products that are gentle on aging dogs. We suggest getting your vet’s input on whether to move forward or not since they are most familiar with your dog.

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