Your beloved dog is also susceptible to dangerous and fatal diseases that should not be ignored. Even if your pet does not succumb to these diseases, it might severely impair their quality of life.
One of the conditions that older dogs usually develop is Cushing’s disease or hyperadrenocorticism. It stems from a benign tumor, typically located in the pituitary gland, which maintains the body’s endocrine system and produces different hormones.
More than that, it affects other bodily functions like the production of glucose, immune function, metabolism of fat, and electrolyte balance. However, when levels of this hormone go up, it can lead to various health consequences.
There are standard or traditional ways to treat Cushing’s disease in dogs. However, this requires powerful medication that has a high chance of serious side effects. In fact, pets that suffer from kidney or liver disease, which is common in older dogs, are not allowed to take this strong medication. Thankfully, there are natural options available for dog-owners who want to avoid these side effects.
This article will discuss Cushing’s disease in more detail before introducing alternative and natural treatment options for dogs who are suffering from this disease.
Causes Of Cushing’s Disease
Tumor in the Pituitary Gland
Almost all of the cases (around 85% to be precise) can be traced to a pituitary gland tumor. Though it is usually small, it still leads the gland to overproduce adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) and thus leading to excess production of cortisol as well.
Tumor in the Adrenal Gland
A tumor may also be found in this gland and may lead to the same overproduction of cortisol.
Synthetic cortisone is sometimes prescribed to treat pain, allergies, or inflammation. However, it should not be taken over a period, especially in high doses. Doing so might cause your dog to develop Cushing’s disease.
Your dog might not speak or indicate so, but it can also experience chronic stress. In response, the adrenal glands will try to regulate this by increasing production of cortisol. What is dangerous is that this response will occur whether your pet has good or bad stress. This means, being over excited about playing might also be dangerous to your pooch’s health. But take note that it is chronic or prolonged stress, not stress for a few minutes, that may lead to Cushing’s disease.
The presence of tumors in other organs like the thyroid gland, thymus gland, pancreas or even in the lungs may also stimulate the body’s overproduction of ACTH production and may even lead to Cushing’s disease.
How to Know Your Dog Has Cushing’s Disease
Many dog owners do not connect the dots to identify the symptoms of Cushing’s disease. This is because their pet’s advanced age might also cause these same symptoms, especially if they have other conditions.
Dogs that are suffering from this disease have a pot-bellied appearance with loss of hair on the sides. They may also show signs of extreme hunger and thirst. Some owners even notice a “tragic” look on their faces. They may also be more tired and weaker than normal, and therefore their owners might observe that they are not as active as other dogs. They may also pant more than normal.
The disease causes their immune system to become much weaker. Therefore they may experience more infections or cancers. They may also develop some skin infections.
Other signs that have been observed include increased frequency of urination and inability to sleep through the night. Dog owners also report their pets to seem more agitated than normal.
Of course, much like with other diseases, your pooch might not have all of the symptoms listed above. They may only have a couple or even none of these signs. Your pet might just show general signs of sickness, and the vet will be the one to conduct tests to identify the cause.
Another test, the low dose dexamethasone suppression (LDDS) test will check how the dog’s body’s response to a man-made version of the hormone cortisol. The next step is to do an ultrasound of the belly to check if there are tumors on the adrenal glands. These results will greatly influence the treatment approach for your beloved pooch.
Overview of Traditional Treatments
Of course, the treatment approach will depend on the cause of the disease, specifically if it is because of a tumor. The location of the tumor will determine greatly what approaches vet will suggest.
Surgery will be suggested by the vet if the tumor is in the adrenal glands but is not spreading. However, one of the most common symptoms of Cushing’s disease is delayed healing of wounds, so the vet might prescribe medication before surgery to counteract this.
Because older dogs are commonly contracting Cushing’s disease, they may not anymore be in the right shape to survive surgery, which is why many opt for medication. With such medication, dogs whose tumors are not growing or spreading may control the disease and normally live for many more years. A good example is synthetic steroids that lower the body’s cortisol production.
The last approach is radiation, to try to shrink macroadenomas in the pituitary gland, relieving their symptoms and the brain.
Natural Treatment for Cushing’s Disease
Nowadays, more and more dog owners prefer not to use these traditional treatments on their beloved pets. Besides the cost, another factor for consideration is the strong medication and its possible side effects. Thankfully, there are more and more holistic veterinarians who may offer different or alternative treatment approaches.
Feed Your Dog Right
As with humans, diet may have a profound influence on the health of your dog. Commercial foods, while handy, actually contain a lot of other things that may not be optimal for your pet’s health. Simply put, there are grains, fillers, and other additives that your pooch does not need but may be hazardous to its health. A basic change to a raw diet or a grain and potato-free, high protein one (may also be found in some canned foods) may already improve your dog’s overall health.
Some swear by a raw diet consisting of raw meat and vegetables. All grains should be removed to reduce the carbohydrates in the diet, and this includes treats.
Beyond that, three ingredients are believed to be very beneficial to dogs with Cushing’s disease.
The second, fish oil, is quite the all-rounder when it comes to treating diseases. Fish oil directly affects the skin and the fats or lipids circulating the blood. More than that, it will help your pet fight infections.
The third is a combination of herbs from Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM). This blend is specifically called Ophiopogon Formula. It reduces the symptoms of Cushing’s disease, among a long list of others.
Opt For Homeopathy
Homeopathic ingredients can also be purchased as an alternative to Western medication. For Cushing’s disease, Cushex drops are known to be the best. This natural remedy will return adrenal function to normal, as well as balance levels of corticosteroid.
Herbal and homeopathic ingredients may also be blended to enjoy various other benefits. For example, they can work in reducing the thirst and excessive urination. They may also promote skin health and strength.
Other homeopathic remedies may normalize the levels of cortisol that your dog’s body produces or even treat the various symptoms associated with Cushing’s disease. Dandelion, for example, is a perfect tonic for your liver and kidneys, while reducing inflammation. You may also benefit from the vitamins and minerals that may even be vital for hair growth.
Burdock, on the other hand, is a cleansing herb that at the same time detoxifies dog tissues and removes unwanted substances from its body. It is also quite popular as a way to prevent diabetes, as it keeps the blood sugar levels quite balanced. Arsenicum handles excessive thirst and urination.
Another homeopathic remedy is Hepar Sulph, which handles wounds and irritated skin easily. It is also a great help for treating any infection. Similarly, astralagus will strengthen the immune system but also promotes balance in the adrenal glands. It also is great for blood pressure and blood sugar stabilization.
Mercurius is taken when there are problems with thirst or irritability. More than that, it can heal bladder infections and cases of diarrhea. Lastly, sulfur also reduces thirst, but it also has a wider-reaching benefit of making skin better and supporting digestion.
Pick Up Some Chinese Herbs
The Chinese have a special cure for Cushing’s disease, specifically one herbal formula called Si Miao San. It works to relieve any inflammation in the body. It will also aid in better digestion and regulating levels of insulin. Si Miao San is most helpful for dogs that are always too hot, always panting and are overweight. On the other hand, dogs that are weaker and thinner might not see as much improvement when taking this herb. There are, however, other options for them to choose from.
Go for Acupuncture
This treatment is surprisingly very helpful for dogs that have Cushing’s disease. Acupuncture has a lot of success in normalizing the endocrine system and reducing any inflammation. A session every two months will be enough as part of a maintenance program for pets that have been stabilized already.
This ingredient can support the treatment of Cushing’s disease because it slows down adrenal hormone release.
Maintaining Cushing’s Disease
You should also be very careful in introducing new treatments, especially natural ones that may not be agreed upon by the veterinarian first. There are cases of herbal medication reacting to chemical based ones, so watch out before mixing them all.
Your care and attention are crucial in your dog’s continuous good health. If not treated, the disease will become worse and end up with infections, problems with some organs and much more. But if you religiously find the best way to keep your pet’s health in tip top shape, you may already see a huge difference in your dog’s life in as little as 4 to 6 months. The lost hair will even grow back, albeit longer. If the disease is already under control, you can expect your dog to retain its strength and liveliness. However, be prepared that your beloved pooch will no longer live beyond a decade, also because they are already old.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for Cushing’s disease, for it is simply managed. Still, you can make a huge difference in improving the quality of life of your best friend.
Sources and References:
- Dana Scott – Natural Remedies For Cushing’s Disease In Dogs – Dogs Naturally Magazine
- Cushing’s disease can trouble older dogs – Canis Major
- Cushing’s Disease in Dogs – PetMD
My 13 year old has Cushions Disease, the medication she was taking “LYSODREN” it was to harsh for her, plus I’m not really a pro pill person for my pets if not necessary. She has had 2 different Drs do there own test costing a small fortune. I pretty much diagnosed her myself, walked in and said my dog has Cushions. Both vets confirmed this and also she has enlarged liver. She had every symptom it happened over night.
First she started panting, then drinking massive amount of water, one day she jumped on the couch I videotaped it because I thought sad but kinda of comical because she was trying so hard backing and trying 5 times before she made it. That was the last time she ever jumped up. Then she started eating everything in site it was no longer a pleasure to eat anymore she never begged I would so go lay down we’re eating and she went to her bed. Then finally her skin started flaking and now has lost hair on her back side. No she vacuums the entire house like I haven’t fed her in a month. Then came the pot belly. If I’m not careful she will eat herself to death. Then I noticed like overnight when I would pick her up her bones just feel so brittle like im gonna crush them.
Actually she is very active I don’t think she’s in any pain her mind still fuctions it’s just her body falling apart.
I have opted for a homeopathic approach, I’m mixing in her food Ginko Biloba, Dadelion, Burdock, Milk Thistle, Frankincense, Fish Oil, and CBD Oil. Mixing it all in with her grain free dry food and a little wet. No I’m reading that giving her a raw diet is best. I’m wondering what kind of meets she can eat raw and and how many drops off each of these herbs I should be giving her she’s about 9-10 lbs?
Also where do I purchase the Pet Alive Cushex Drops M, and will this be better then mixing all the stuff separately.
Abby is my entire life I recused her from a terrible place I had her for 10 years I even quit my high paying job to take care of to get her in good health she’s always had her shots and been a happy doggy. I litterally take her with me everywhere, this was just so sudden I just couldn’t believe the by far well behaved smart dog I have ever known we live at the beach and she doesn’t miss a beat everyone in town knows she never stays home. Please help with my questions.
I think I may try acupuncture as well and wonder if you know of any vet that does this in the Newport Beach, Costa Mesa, CA area?
My dog was perfectly health, walked several times a day, more on the weekends; hiking snowshoeing, and being happy, energetic and full of life.
One day (4 months ago) he jumped off the back step chasing a cat and he snapped his carpal. When I took him to the vet to get the surgery to repair it, they took X-Rays, Blood Work, Urine Samples and his ALP Levels were extremely high. As opposed to 150 they were 800+. The vet did more tests and said he had Cushings Disease and therefore they would not do surgery to fix his carpal hyper-extension.
The vet wanted medication, specific foods, and a lot of rest along with my Chocolate Lab (8 years old) to lose weight. Before this injury he was 85 (the average lab is roughly 60-70 pounds) so he was a little bigger, but completely healthy, solid and strong. Since this injury he has seen his meal portions drop so significant that any other being would starve. His rest has been basically start to finish every day besides bathroom time. His stomach has bloated and his water intake and urinating has increased 200%. However, even with the cut back in food, his weight has gone up in 4 months from 85 pounds to 115 pounds.
Without a vet or someone helping heal my poor dogs carpal, I have no idea how to get him to lose weight and get back into athletic form. Also, I need to find a good diet plan to have him on that will lower his Cushings Disease complications and make him much more healthier.
It seems the vets want to guess, guess guess, and keep you coming back on a weekly basis. The cost are impossible to sustain, but with my Chocolate Lab, I have to do everything possible for him, he is my life and at the age of 8 years old, he has such a long life left ahead of him. My last dog was a Black Lab and he was 13 when he passed, and had no complications until the last 4 weeks of his life, when he had a tumor in his brain bust 🙁
Please reply to my email with some insight and good news
Shannon you are me! What you wrote is what I’m about to write! I live in Newport as well. I quit my high paying job as well to care for my chihuahua. Please update me on how your dog is doing. Mine is 16 years old and my world.
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