Canine Cushings Disease Treatment

Canine Cushing's disease is often difficult to detect because it develops so slowly, but it's a serious disease that requires treatment. Fortunately, in most cases, symptoms can be reduced with treatment.

Cushing's Disease Symptoms

Cushing's disease is caused by the overproduction of glucocorticoid, a steroid produced in the brain by the pituitary or adrenal gland that monitors many bodily functions. It's hard to detect because the symptoms develop slowly, often over several years, and many owners attribute those symptoms to old age.

Symptoms include:

  • Increased appetite
  • Increased water consumption and urination
  • Abdominal enlargement
  • Thin skin
  • Hair loss

Hair loss in the most common symptom, and the one most easily noticed by owners.

Treatment of Cushing's Disease

There are two types of canine Cushing's disease, pituitary dependent hyperadrenocorticism (PDH) and adrenal-based hyperadrenocorticism.

PDH is caused by overproduction of a hormone that stimulates the production of glucocorticoid. This is the most common form of Cushing's disease, accounting for about 80 percent of cases.

PDH is most commonly treated with oral medication, usually Lysodren, which functions much like chemotherapy, destroying cells in the adrenal gland that are producing the glucocorticoids. Lysodren is usually given daily for seven or eight days while your veterinarian looks for a reduction in symptoms. At the end of this time, your dog's hormone levels are tested to ensure the drug is working. If it is, he'll be placed on a lower dosage for maintenance only.

If the treatment is working, the symptoms should subside in four to six months. However, if the medication doesn't work after being used daily for 30 days, a different type of treatment will be necessary. If your dog shows any side effects, such as vomiting, lethary or diarrhea, consult your veterinarian immediately.

This treatment is relatively inexpensive and convenient, but it does have some negative side effects, as well as the possibility that too much of the adrenal gland will be destroyed. Other medications will be required to maintain those functions. These medications are available, but they aren't very widely used.

Adrenal-based Cushing's disease is caused by a tumor in the adrenal gland, which can be treated either with medication or surgery. Depending on the type of tumor, a chemotherapy-type medication may be effective, or the tumor might need to be removed. Chemotherapy and radiation are also treatment options if the tumor is malignant, which it often isn't.

Alternative Treatment Options

If you are hesitant to use harsh medication for treatment or would like alternatives to use in conjunction with conventional treatment, there are some holistic options available. Additionally, a healthy diet high in quality protein, free of preservatives and chemicals can go a long way to promote good health.

Dandelion is used to improve function of the liver, kidney and adrenal glands, which is the main problem in Cushing's disease, and burdock is widely used for detoxifying tissues. To reduce some of the symptoms, Arsenicum treats excessive thirst, hepar sulph heals irritated skin and sulfur improves condition of the skin.

Canine Cushing's disease is a complicated disease that affects many areas of your pet's health. However, there are many treatment options available that can reduce symptoms.