The Basics of Cushing’s Disease

The Basics of Cushing’s Disease

Cush Away naturally treats Cushing’s disease, but symptoms are numerous and varied. The disease can take many forms and can be difficult to even diagnose. So what exactly is Cushing’s and how does it affect dogs? Here’s an in-depth look at the symptoms and causes of the disease.

What is Cushing’s Disease?

Vets describe Cushing’s disease (hyperadrenocorticism) as an excess of cortisol and cortisone in the body. It is an endocrine disorder that affects the dog’s ability to regulate their immune system, respond to stress, and even effects their metabolism. Left untreated, Cushing’s can lead to the long-term suppression of the immune system, liver damage, pancreatitis, diabetes and dramatic reductions in lifespan and quality of life due to weakening and loss of skeletal muscles. This excess can be a result of the animal’s own body overproducing the hormone or due to complications from a high dose of medication containing the hormone.

But why does the dog’s body produce more cortisol or cortisone to begin with? Corticosteroids are monitored by the brain and the pituitary gland and are made by the adrenal glands. The pituitary gland sends signals to the adrenal gland in the form of the enzyme ACTH telling it how much corticosteroid to make. The excess of cortisol is often caused by overproduction of the hormone ACTH (pituitary-dependent Cushing’s) that tells the adrenal gland to make too much corticosteroids or a benign tumor (adrenal-dependent Cushing’s) or some other malfunction in the adrenal gland itself that causes increased production of corticosteroids. These tumors are frequently benign, but initiate the body’s production of more of the hormone. A third very similar condition is Cushing’s Syndrome, an overabundance of cortisol in the system caused by outside factors like medications, excess stress, inflammation or more likely a combination of these factors. However, it can be tricky to just eliminate the cortisol drugs in the body without a recurrence of the other symptoms those drugs are trying to eliminate.

When is Your Dog at Risk for Developing Cushing’s?

If your dog is moving into older adulthood (around 8-9 years) or already in their senior years, they are more likely to develop the disease. However, even younger dogs can develop Cushing’s from a genetic trait or an overabundance of corticosteroid medications like dexamethasone, triamcinolone, prednisone or similar medications. These medications are prescribed for a variety of reasons but commonly treat naturally low occurring cortisol, certain cancers, and even allergies.

What are the Symptoms of Cushing’s?

Cush Away founder James Marshall first noticed his dog’s excessive thirst and appetite, but the symptoms for Cushing’s can manifest differently in different dogs. lists over 15 separate symptoms that may occur in tandem or individually. Unfortunately, some symptoms can also signal other conditions so a vet will need to look at several diagnostic tests to pinpoint Cushing’s disease. Here are the common symptoms from
– Increased thirst and urination (polydipsia and polyuria, respectively)
– Increased hunger
– Increased panting
– Pot-bellied abdomen
– Obesity
– Fat pads on the neck and shoulders
– Recurrent infections of skin, ears, urinary tract, etc.
– Loss of hair
– Lack of energy
– Inability to sleep (insomnia)
– Muscle weakness
– Infertility
– Darkening of the skin
– Appearance of blackheads on the skin
– Thin skin
– Bruising
– Hard white scaly patches on the skin, elbows, etc. (associated with the disease calcinosis cutis)
Neurologic abnormalities (circling, behavioral changes, seizures, etc.)

Diagnosing Cushing’s Disease in Dogs

Effectively diagnosing Cushing’s disease takes multiple tests. Since initial signs of Cushing’s may point to several other conditions, diagnostic tests must be used to pinpoint one of the causes of the disease. This may include a low dose dexamethasone suppression (LDDS) test, which will evaluate your dog’s reaction to a synthetic version of the cortisol hormone before and after blood tests, or an ACTH stimulation test that measures the dog’s reaction to a hormone that elicits the creation of cortisol in the body. Testing may also include analysis of the dog’s urine and feces. Finally, the vet may order an abdominal ultrasound to check for tumors in the adrenal or pituitary glands.

Treating Cushing’s Disease in Dogs

Though there is no cure for Cushing’s, treatments are available to help manage and suppress the disease while maintaining your dog’s quality of life.

Several drugs are used to treat Cushing’s, including mitotane (Lysodren) or trilostane (Vetoryl), the goal of which is basically to poison the adrenal gland in a way that some of it is killed off reducing the amount of corticosteroid that can be made. The downside of this approach is that negative side effects can be very common, in up to 85% of dogs with some treatments, and also very severe.

This chemotherapy also runs the risk of completely destroying the adrenal gland resulting in a lifetime case of Addison’s disease; in some ways worse than Cushing’s. The chemotherapy can also result in a weakening of the adrenal tissue that can result in a rupture, internal bleeding and death. These serious side effects were observed in nearly one in 25 dogs in some early studies.

One survey showed that more than half of veterinary specialists polled would not prescribe the drug treatments without there being serious clinical symptoms damaging the dog, even if tests showed the dog had Cushing’s. This means that many dogs who could be receiving treatment for their Cushing’s are not being treated for fear that the risks outweigh the potential benefits. This type of chemotherapy can also be expensive, with treatment, including ongoing required testing and drugs, often costing in the thousands annually.

Another solution is a supplement to the dog’s diet that can help blunt the effects of Cushing’s disease naturally. Cush Away is a supplement that uses a combination of probiotics and other natural compounds that can help reduce the production of these corticosteroids safely and naturally. Using this supplement, dogs may show a significant reduction of or complete lack of symptoms.

At Cush Away, our goal is to provide a natural supplement solution for your dog to maintain a healthy lifestyle while reducing the levels of excess corticosteroids and easing or even eliminating the symptoms of Cushing’s disease. Read more about our product to decide if our natural alternative can be the answer for your beloved pet’s health.