Solutions for Cushing’s Disease in Dogs

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Spot lumbered into the exam room.

Spot walked somewhat bowlegged, carrying a distended belly and appearing as if he swallowed a basketball.

“So, what brings you to the veterinarian today?” inquired Dr. Smith.

“Well, Spot’s not acting like himself.”

“He is shaking, agitated, and eating everything in sight.”

“He also pees and drinks all the time.”

“And Spot’s hair loss and skin infections are really an issue.”

Spot’s owners are very concerned.

Spot has been a family pet for 12 years, and he is still an important family member loved by all.

His death would rock the family.

After examining Spot, Dr. Smith concludes that he may suffer from Cushing’s disease, a disorder in which the adrenal gland produces too much cortisol.

Cushing’s Disease in dogs is also called hyperadrenocorticism.

Anatomically, the adrenal glands are two triangular-shaped glands located adjacent to the kidneys.

The outer layer, called the cortex, primarily produces three hormones:

  • Cortisol: regulates the metabolic activity and the immune system
  • Aldosterone: blood pressure and water metabolism
  • Sex hormones: estrogen and progesterone

The inner layer, called the medulla, primarily produces two hormones:

  • Epinephrine
  • Norepinephrine

There are two forms of Cushing’s Disease in dogs, typical Cushing’s Disease and Atypical Cushing’s Disease. 

Typical

The first form of Cushing’s disease is called typical Cushing’s.

In typical Cushing’s adrenal cortex produces too much cortisol resulting in irregular metabolic and immune system activity.

Typical Cushing’s Disease in dogs is most occurs from hypersecretion of ACTH from the pituitary gland, a gland located at the base of the brain.

For this reason, we call Cushing’s disease originating from the pituitary gland “pituitary-dependent Cushing’s”. Roughly 80% of Cushing’s-diagnosed dogs are “pituitary-dependent”.

The other 20% of the time, the adrenal glands, due to tumors are the cause of Cushing’s disease. We call Cushing’s due to renal tumors “adrenal-dependent” Cushing’s.

Atypical

Science recently discovered a second form of Cushing’s disease, atypical Cushing’s.

Atypical Cushing’s occurs when the adrenal cortex produces an excess of steroid hormones resulting in similar signs as typical Cushing’s.

Both typical and typical Cushing’s effect mostly middle-aged to older dogs of all breeds. Cushing’s affects males and females equally.

Dr. Smith says, “It seems to me that Spot may have Cushing’s. Blood tests should confirm my suspicions. And, after we get the results and if the tests do indeed confirm a diagnosis of Cushing’s, then we will discuss Cushing’s treatment options, prognosis, and life expectancy.”

Spot’s owners, a young couple, are dejected and upset. On the positive side, hope exists for Cushing’s Disease in dogs.

With proper diagnosis and treatment, Spot can live a very productive, pain-free life well into his golden years.

From a diagnostic perspective, your veterinarian will perform a battery of tests including one or more of the following:

  • Urine cortisol/ creatinine ratio: a screening test
  • Low dose dexamethasone test: a screening test
  • High dose dexamethasone test: differentiation test
  • ACTH stimulation test: differentiation test
  • Abdominal ultrasound: identification of adrenal tumor or adrenal enlargement

All of the above tests will help your veterinarian diagnose and categorize Cushing’s.

Furthermore, your veterinarian will ascertain valuable information related to the type of Cushing’s and the best treatment to initiate. 

Whether Cushing’s treatment involves diet, a natural treatment, pharmaceutical drugs, or even all of the above, Spot’s future shines bright.

Other Powerful Tools for Thriving with Cushing’s Disease

There are many quick and easy changes you can make at home to help you give your dog an edge on easing Cushing’s disease challenges.

  • Learn more about Cushing’s Disease.
  • Try Home Cooking. Visit our Recipe Page, and scroll down to the recipes for dogs with Cushing’s disease. Often, home-cooking makes a huge difference in helping dogs feel better!
  • Supplement with medicinal mushrooms. PET | TAO Complement Immune is a Mushroom Blend that eases inflammatory response and immune system stress caused by Cushing’s.
  • Try digestive enzymes and probiotics. PET | TAO Harmonize GI boosts gut health, which in turn helps your dog better process all food nutrients. Improved gut health also boosts immunity and calms allergic response.
  • Feed Freeze Dried Liver Treats. According to TCVM, when Cushing’s disease is present there is almost always Liver Meridian involvement. Liver treats provide Liver Meridian support like as a glandular supplement (Western theory) and via 5-Element Theory (Eastern theory).
  • Learn more about TCVM Herbal Remedies. Chinese medicine offers many amazing natural solutions for Cushing’s disease. A good  example is:

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