Top Vet Recommended Natural Remedies for Cushing’s Disease in Dogs

Cushing’s Disease in dogs (hyperadrenocorticism) is an endocrine disorder of the adrenal glands that causes a disruption in normal endocrine and metabolic function. Generally caused by a benign tumor on either the pituitary gland in the brain, or the adrenal glands themselves, these growths affect adrenal function and cause the body to continually produce cortisol, the body’s natural steroid. Cushings can also sometimes be caused by overuse of prednisone and other corticosteroids that are being used to treat other conditions like skin and bowel problems. Left untreated, pet dogs with Cushing’s Disease are not only uncomfortable from the symptoms of the syndrome such as profuse panting, hunger, thirst and need to urinate, but they can also become sick in other ways since the cortisol release caused by Cushing’s creates a state of immunodeficiency that is similar to cancer patients on massive doses of steroids having weakened immune systems.

Symptoms of Cushing’s Disease in Dogs

Usually occurring in dogs that have at least reached middle age (6 to 8 years, depending on the breed, though onset is frequently older), the normal symptoms noticed with Cushing’s include extreme panting (even when it does not seem like the dog should be panting), ravenous appetite and thirst to the point that dogs begin stealing food and drastically increased need to urinate marked by either asking to go out more or having accidents in the house. As the condition progresses, dogs will develop a poor haircoat, lose hair and be unable to grow it back as well as take on a distinctive “pot bellied” look and will begin displaying muscle weakness and trembling, usually in the hind legs first. Dogs may also get frequent bladder infections, skin infections or develop other problems that start happening because of a weakening immune system. Upon x-ray, many times a large liver might be seen. Although the main symptoms can also indicate other conditions such as diabetes, when combined with hair loss and the potbelly, this is highly indicative of Cushing’s Disease. Spayed females are most often affected, though male dogs can get Cushing’s, too.

Diagnosing Cushing’s Disease in Dogs

Hyperadrenocorticism can be difficult to pinpoint despite all of these behavioral and visual symptoms, so there is some detective work involved. First and foremost, dogs are usually tested for diabetes, kidney disease and other endocrine disorders that can cause some of the same symptoms. In Cushing’s dogs, the blood sugar is normal, and is not what is responsible for the appetite and urination (although untreated Cushing’s can later cause diabetes). Therefore, when Cushing’s is suspected, undergoing blood tests such as a Low Dose Dexamethasone Suppression test or an ACTH Stimulation test can be diagnostic by proving whether or not the condition disappears if the dog is injected with a medication that quiets the adrenal and pituitary glands. Through a series of test it can be determined whether the syndrome is pituitary-dependant or adrenal-dependant, which is important to know when treating.

Treatment of Cushing’s Disease in Dogs

Almost all Cushing’s that is diagnosed is the result of a benign tumor on the pituitary gland in the brain, which makes it inoperable in almost all cases (tumors on the adrenal glands can be operated on, but they are rare). Knowing this, there are a few main ways in which hyperadrenocorticism is treated, most of which involve lifelong medication. Pituitary Cushing’s is treated with a number of oral medications that are actual cancer killers – oral chemotherapy – and while effectiveness is high, these drugs can cause sickness themselves, as well as work “too well” and cause the opposite problem – Addison’s Disease – which is a lack of enough cortisol in the body. These drugs work by destroying cells on the pituitary and adrenal glands to slow their function, but they can have terrible side effects for some dogs, and with understandable reason.

Natural Remedies for Dog Cushing’s Disease

As an option in treating dogs with Cushing’s Disease, many pet owners are resorting to herbal and natural products that support the immune system and regulate adrenal function and production. While these types of remedies are not for every pet, they work well for many, and allow them to avoid the unintentional damages that chemotherapy can cause. Ingredients such as borage, licorice, eleutherococcus senticosus, dandelion, astragalus and wild yam all help to control adrenal and hormone production, and has been known to help with many endocrine disorders. Supraglan by Petwellbeing and Cushex Drops by PetAlive both contain these ingredients and other immune boosting and supporting herbs that can help in many cases, and naturally.

Of course simply making the hunger and thirst go away is not the goal, so using formulas that act on hormonal and adrenal function is key. There are numerous herbs and botanicals that can do that when used properly. Even Ginkgo Biloba has been known to aid adrenal function, offering yet more options for the natural treatment of Cushing’s Disease in dogs. A clean, natural diet is also important in treating any kind of endocrine disorder, too. You should definitely discuss any holistic or homeopathic treatments with your veterinarian first, but for those wanting to try a more natural way to treat this syndrome, it is possible for Cushing’s to be managed herbally in some pets.

Filed under: Conditions

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