Managing Cushings in Dogs with Mitotane (Lysodren)

Hyperadrenocorticism, otherwise known as Cushing's in dogs, is a somewhat common condition affecting the production of the hormone cortisol in an animal's body. In the case of Cushing's disease, the dog's system produces an excess of cortisol. This can lead to a variety of health problems as the normal processing of various cellular functions is disrupted. Fortunately, there are a number of medicines that can help to limit the production of cortisol or to eliminate excess cortisol, effectively countering the effects of Cushing's disease. Mitotane is one of the leading drugs of this type, and is a popular choice among vets and owners of pets with this chronic condition.

Overview of Mitotane

Mitotane is a cytotoxin, or a drug that functions to kill a highly specific group of cells in the body. In the case of this particular medicine, that group of cells occurs in the adrenal gland and is responsible for the synthesis of extra cortisol in patients with Cushing's disease. Mitotane effectively kills those cells, reducing the overall production of the hormone and restoring normal body functions to your pet.

Treating Your Pet with Mitotane

Mitotane is a prescription drug and has the potential to cause harmful effects if given to animals incorrectly. Healthy dogs should not receive Mitotane, and dogs with Cushing's should be monitored carefully during all stages of treatment with this medicine.

The first step toward treating your pet's Cushing's with Mitotane is to have him properly examined and diagnosed by a vet. If you suspect that your pet may have Cushing's disease, take him to a veterinarian right away. Following a thorough physical examination, medical history check and blood tests, your vet may diagnose your dog with Cushing's. If this is the case, speak with him about the possibility of managing your pet's condition with Mitotane.

Administration of the Drug

Dosage of Mitotane depends upon the severity of your pet's condition and, more importantly, on his size, breed and age. Your veterinarian will take all of these factors into account when prescribing the medicine to you. It is crucial that you follow all dosing instructions as provided by the vet. Mitotane is typically provided in tablet form 2 to 4 times per week, and the size of each dose may vary depending upon where your dog lies in the treatment regimen.

Side Effects of Mitotane

Mitotane is formulated for human use only, but it's legally prescribed to dogs and other animals as an extra-label medicine. Nevertheless, it is considered generally safe for animal use. Keep a close watch on your dog for any of the following adverse effects of the drug:

  • Decreased thirst and urination
  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Lethargy
  • Depression
  • Liver damage

In some cases, Mitotane has been shown to over-correct for adrenal gland function, leading to a deficiency of cortisol in the body. This is a serious concern, and your vet will likely take regular blood samples in order to monitor the production of the adrenal gland. Mitotane may also have negative effects when mixed with certain other medications in your pet's system, so it's best to inform your vet of all other medicines that your pet has ingested.

When used properly, Mitotane can dramatically improve the life of a dog with Cushing's disease.