Have you ever felt helpless, desperate, and powerless when it comes to helping your dog face a difficult health issue? This is often the case with Cushing’s Syndrome or Cushing's Disease. If it's your first time hearing about this problem, then you've come to the right place.
I've put together this simple-to-follow blog post to get you in on the important things to keep in mind when it comes to this severe illness. Besides walking you through the clinical signs to keep in mind, I will also give you the lowdown on how to treat Cushing's Disease in just a few moments.
What is Cushing’s Disease in Dogs?
Cushing’s disease is triggered when the pituitary or adrenal glands produce excessive cortisol levels. If your dog is 6 years or older, he has an increased risk of being afflicted with Cushing’s compared to younger dogs.
The overproduction of cortisol hormones during a dog's Cushing's disease can be set off by two distinct grounds. This can be caused by adrenal tumors (adrenal-dependent) or some imbalance in the pituitary gland (pituitary-dependent) like pituitary tumor.
Additionally, adrenal and pituitary tumors that can cause Cushing's disease can be detected using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). It is also crucial to remember that untreated Cushing's disease in dogs can be fatal!
How is Cushing's Disease Diagnosed?
The most common way of diagnosing Cushing's disease in dogs is through the conduct of blood tests. Besides determining if the disease is caused by the adrenal glands or by pituitary tumors, blood tests can also help pinpoint if the problem is caused by the excessive use of steroids like in the case of iatrogenic Cushing's disease.
ACTH stimulation tests
The specific blood test performed to diagnose Cushing's disease in dogs is the Adrenocorticotropin Hormone or ACTH stimulation test. These tests are also referred to as "adrenal function tests."
As the name implies, adrenal function tests primarily utilize the hormone ACTH to check if there is really an excessive production of cortisol in a dog's adrenal gland or if there is a case of pituitary-dependent Cushing's disease in dogs.
Low dose dexamethasone suppression
Another test to confirm Cushing's disease in dogs is the low-dose dexamethasone suppression or LDDS test. It makes use of urine culture to monitor how the adrenal glands produce cortisol within a fixed timeframe. Follow-up blood tests may also be required.
It is crucial to take note that dogs Cushing's disease can be triggered by either benign or malignant tumor. Make sure you have your pet checked for this health problem as soon as you observe the clinical signs.
What Causes Cushing's Disease?
Cushing's disease in dogs can either be pituitary-dependent (caused by a serious health condition like pituitary gland tumors) or triggered by some issue in a dog's adrenal glands. Let's examine them in detail:
Adrenal gland tumor
A dog's adrenal glands just sit above the kidneys. When these produce and store excessive levels of cortisol, adrenal-dependent Cushing's disease sets in and will make your pet vulnerable to health problems like recurrent skin infections, gallbladder disease, high blood pressure and gastrointestinal disease.
Pituitary gland tumor
The pituitary gland is a pea-sized gland located at the brain's base. Most dogs Cushing's disease is caused by pituitary issues, technically referred to as pituitary-dependent Cushing's disease. A surgical removal of the entire tumor is required in this scenario.
Under these circumstances, your pet could be prone to urinary tract infections, elevated liver enzymes, damage to abdominal organs, chronic inflammatory liver disease and even major abdominal surgery in some cases.
Excessive steroid use
Too much steroids can already affect dogs' normal health. This type of Cushing's disease in dogs is called Iatrogenic Cushing's syndrome. It isn't triggered by pituitary tumor or adrenal tumors. Iatrogenic Cushing's disease can be deemed as one of the few medication side effects of steroids and treatment requires gradual discontinuation of the same.
What are Your Pet's Symptoms of Cushing's Disease in Dogs?
The most common symptoms are:
Tendency to bruise easily
Blood clots due to high blood pressure
Less common symptoms are:
Difficulty breathing or panting
Adrenal tumor (specific to adrenal-dependent)
Adverse neurological symptoms caused by medication treatments
Does Cushing's Disease Have to Do With the Adrenal Glands or Pituitary Gland?
Cushing’s can be the result of medications given to treat other problems. Dogs that are given too much prednisone, dexamethasone, prednisolone, or similar drugs to regain normal health can develop signs of this disease.
Unfortunately, some dogs naturally overproduce the cortisol hormone in their bodies. Since this hormone weakens the immune system, they are more prone to catching any passing bacterial infection quickly.
This also tends to complicate the identification process. Your vet may keep treating the different symptoms and infections without realizing that the cause is Cushing’s disease.
This means added stress, money, and grief for you before getting satisfying relief for your poor pet!
The treatments vary since there are different causes for this disease. Unfortunately in most cases, the treatment options usually resort to medication treatments. Your vet will be able to pinpoint which option would be right for your dog so he can be successfully treated.
A word of caution, though. The initial "induction period" (about 1 week) will usually have serious side effects on your dog. Sometimes, even with the medication, Cushing’s symptoms return later on in their life, so be prepared.
Surgery is the most common treatment if a tumor is involved. If surgery is not possible, then medication is usually given to reduce the cortisol released by the tumor. If we're being honest, there are no guarantees even with surgery.
This is why being proactive with even the slightest signs of Cushing's disease in dogs is a must for every pet parent.
How Do You Naturally Cure Cushing's Disease in Dogs?
Our Online Homeopathic Consultation is just what you need to naturally give your dog the right support he deserves during this serious health issue. Zumalka provides a personalized solution to target the root of your pet's problem, instead of just dealing with the symptoms.
And all of this is done in the comfort of your own home! Instead of struggling through in-person appointments and waiting rooms, our consultations are 100% online via email and video call.
It's a real conversation with a real professional homeopath—without all the hassle and miscommunication.
Prevent Cushing’s Disease in the Adrenal Gland Now!
So how do you REALLY prevent Cushing’s disease? I have one word for you: AWARENESS. Know the signs and causes. Get your dog treated as soon as he displays the common symptoms of this health problem to avoid adverse long-term side effects.
We love our dogs so much so let’s do our best to protect them as best we can. Let’s be aware and act immediately! This way, we won't just be protecting our furry friends against Cushing's disease in dogs, but we'll also give them the quality of life that they truly deserve.
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