A Beginner’s Guide on Treating Cushing’s Disease in Dogs

Updated on June 21, 2023

Owning a dog is a matter of great responsibility as you need to pay attention to their every need, such as the right diet, exercise, and regular checkups at the vet. This becomes even more important as your dog gets older because of age-related ailments. Knowing what to expect and keeping an eye on behaviors can help you catch problems in time and get your dog the right treatment. One such disease to look out for, especially in middle-aged and senior dogs, is Cushing’s disease. 

Cushing’s disease or Cushing’s syndrome is a common endocrine disorder found in dogs, which causes an overproduction of the hormone cortisol. This leads to several complications which could cause your dog to feel high levels of distress. To avoid this and prevent any fatal damages, it is essential that you catch the disease on time. 

If your dog has already been diagnosed, don’t worry because there are treatment options available. From various dog Cushings disease natural treatment options to conventional interventions, you should be informed about all of the possibilities. 

The Basics of Cushing’s Disease 

If you’re a first-time dog owner or are new to this disease in particular, the first step is to understand the nature of the disease, including common symptoms. This will help you keep an eye out for indications so that you can take appropriate action. 

Cushing’s disease is a disease that impacts the endocrine system of a dog and is also called hyperadrenocorticism. A dog’s body naturally produces a stress hormone called cortisol, but when affected with Cushing’s disease, there is an overproduction of it. While healthy levels are essential for immunity, excessive production causes hormonal imbalance and subsequent symptoms related to the disease. The production of cortisol is controlled by the adrenal glands near the kidney and the pituitary gland found at the base of the brain. Often a tumor or malfunctioning of either of the glands results in the disease, which could be pituitary dependant or adrenal dependant. Another reason why Cushing’s may occur is if a dog has been on steroids for a significant amount of time. 

While understanding the cause of the disease is easy, diagnosing it can be challenging because several of its symptoms mimic those that naturally occur as a dog ages. However, there are certain red flags that you should keep an eye out for and take your dog to the vet if they occur. One common symptom is excessive thirst and the need to urinate. If your dog is drinking more water than usual and is urinating in small intervals, it is best to take it in for a checkup. Other symptoms include increased appetite, panting, hair loss, lethargy, and weight gain. You may even notice your dog developing a potbelly. While these are some common symptoms, not all dogs react to Cushing’s the same way, so monitor habits and energy levels to be on the safe side. 

Knowing what the disease is is an essential step, but the next important thing to understand is treatment options if your dog gets diagnosed. 

Oral Medication 

Cushing’s disease is a lifelong illness and likely has no cure; however, the symptoms and side-effects can be managed with oral medication. You will need to take your dog to the vet for regular checkups to monitor blood levels and to see if the medication is responding properly. The two most common medications prescribed are Tilostrane, also known as Vetoryl, and Mitotane, also known as Lysodern. Mitotane is an old medicine that has been administered over the years but is not anymore because of its potentially dangerous side effects. Trilostane is the one prescribed most commonly to improve the overall health and vitality of a dog suffering from Cushing’s disease. It has a lot fewer side-effects but is also a more expensive drug. If a dog has developed Cushing’s due to steroid exposure, it will have to slowly be weaned off it to prevent more damage. 

Surgical Intervention 

Because Cushing’s is most commonly caused due to a tumor on the adrenal or pituitary gland, surgery is often the best option to treat the disease at its core. The vet will administer blood tests and scans to locate the tumor, determine its size, and whether or not it has spread to other parts. The prognosis is usually better for benign tumors, and most dogs recover fully post-surgery. In case the tumor is malignant and has spread to other parts, surgery is no longer the best solution, and the dog’s treatment plan then includes oral medication to combat the symptoms. If the growth is small, radiation is also an excellent option to remove the tumorous cells and stop them from multiplying. 

Natural Remedies 

With the popularity of alternative and holistic medicine, it is no surprise that natural remedies are also a powerful option for treating Cushing’s disease in dogs. Many pet owners are now turning towards herbs and supplements to support the overall health of their dogs. They are either used in isolation or in combination with conventional medication. Herbs are very beneficial and help strengthen the dog’s immune system. The most popular ones to consider are dandelion, burdock, nettle, and kelp. These help to support the adrenal function and other stressed organs in the body. Other ways to support your dog naturally are by making dietary adjustments and reducing carbohydrate-based food options. 

Parting Thoughts 

While it is unfortunately very difficult to see your fur baby go through an illness like Cushing’s disease, we want to assure you that there are some great treatment options available. Going through our comprehensive guide will help you understand everything you need to know to care for your dog. If you have found a suitable treatment option, we recommend that you speak to the vet and decide on the right plan together and ensure that your dog continues to live a happy and healthy life. 

Do you have a pet diagnosed with Cushing’s disease? Any tips for new pet owners out there? Let us know in the comment section below. 

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