Cushings Disease in Dogs

Cushings Disease in dogs is a fairly common condition in older dogs.  It can be treated both conventionally and holistically with fairly good results. The pituitary gland at the base of the brain produces the adrenocorticotropic hormone. This hormone stimulates the adrenal glands located near the kidneys to release glucocorticoid (cortisol) hormones into the body. Cortisol is a hormone necessary to maintain life. It regulates blood sugar levels, fat metabolism, nervous system functions, kidney function, cardiovascular system, muscles and the immune system.

When levels of cortisol are too low the pituitary gland secretes its hormone, causing the adrenal glands to secrete more cortisol. When there is too much of the hormone in the body, the pituitary stops for a while.

In Cushings disease the feedback loop back to the brain is malfunctioning.  The result is that there is an excessive amount of cortisol in the body. The pituitary gland does not get the signal to stop producing hormones and this is how Cushings disease in dogs starts.

Causes of the Condition:

Cushings disease in dogs can be caused by a small benign tumor on the pituitary gland. These cause the feedback malfunction discussed earlier. It may be caused by a tumor on the adrenal gland. Another way it can be caused is by over use of conventional medicines like prednisone.

Signs and Symptoms:

  • Increased water consumption.
  • Increased urination.
  • Increased appetite.
  • Bloated bellies; pot-belly.
  •  Loss of muscle mass.
  •  Bony-looking head.
  •  Lethargy, hind-leg weakness.
  •  Thinning hair.
  •  Panting, seeking cool places to lie.
  •  Previous swelling or inflammation appears resolved (because of increased cortisol).

Diagnosis of Cushings Disease in Dogs:

Blood screening can determine elevated levels of liver enzymes, cholesterol and blood glucose. Urinalysis can determine high levels of protein in the body.

Conventional Treatment:

The treatment your vet recommends will depend on the cause of the disease in your dog. If it is the most common cause, the pituitary dependant type, a drug called Lysodren may be prescribed. Although it is usually effective, it can sometimes lead to the reverse of Cushing’s which is Addison’s disease. There are several other drugs that can be prescribed as well. Your vet will determine which one is best for your dog. This disease has no cure, unless a tumor can be surgically removed, so management of the condition is the goal. It may take 4-6 months to get the medication levels correct to stabilize the dog.

**This is a serious disease. You need to contact your vet or a holistic vet for help with it.

Natural Remedies for Cushing’s Disease:

  • Dandelion: Dandelion roots and leaves help to normalize the adrenal function if given consistently over time. It helps improve the functioning of the liver and kidneys as well as reducing inflammation in the body......  Add a Tablespoon full /20 lbs. of dried dandelion to your dog’s food each 20 lbs.......Dandelion can also be purchased as a tincture. Add one dropper full per 20 lbs. to your dog’s food each day.   
  • Astragalus: Helps strengthen the adrenal system and boosts the immune system. 
  • Cold Pressed Flaxseed Oil with Lignans and Melatonin: Many people have gotten good results by simply giving these two supplements together. The recommendation for the Melatonin is for 6 mg. per 30 lbs. twice a day. However, you should probably start out lower and increase the amount if needed. Give a Tablespoon of Flaxseed Oil with Lignans twice a day on food per 30 lbs.

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