Addressing Corticosteroid Demands in Your Dog: Inflammation

Inflammation in dogs is a varied symptom that can be hard to pinpoint. As a pet parent caring for a dog with Cushing’s disease, inflammation is another factor that can add to your pup’s discomfort. Although we typically think of inflammation in the muscles and joints, it can occur in other parts of the body both internally and externally. If inflammation persists, it can compound symptoms of Cushing’s. Finding the root cause and managing a dog’s inflammation can help minimalize the effects of Cushing’s disease as well.

Inflammation Causes

Inflammation is the body’s response to a problem in order to protect and heal. It is an immune response triggered to protect the body from toxins and to repair damaged tissue. The response in dogs is similar to what happens in a human: chemicals released in the body cause blood vessels to leak at the site of the trauma, whether a foreign invader or an injury. This leads to redness and swelling in the affected tissues.

External inflammation can be detected in a dog’s movement or by the telltale red and swollen skin in the inflamed area. Internal inflammation can be harder to pin down without examinations and testing, as it can affect tissue in different body systems. When inflammation becomes chronic (continuing over a long period of time), it can be damaging and even life-threatening to your pet.

Look for these signs to identify inflammation in your dog:

– Localized redness
– Rigid limbs
– Swellings
– Awkward gait
– Reluctance to rise
– Muscle spasms
– Depression
– Diarrhea
– Vomiting
– Unusual vocalizations
– Loss of appetite

List compiled from

Inflammation in Cushing’s Dogs

Inflammation causes problems for dogs suffering with Cushing’s disease because it creates a vicious cycle. Cushing’s is caused by an overabundance of cortisone and cortisol, the corticosteroids that a dog’s body naturally produces to treat inflammation. If an older dog suffers from hip dysplasia or worn joints accompanied by inflammation, this triggers more corticosteroid production which will in turn compound Cushing’s symptoms. The key is to treat inflammation in your dog to reduce the demand to produce these steroids.

Reducing Inflammation

One way to cut down on a dog’s inflammation is through diet. When your dog maintains a healthy weight and a diet low in processed grains, inflammation is naturally reduced. Part of the reason for this comes down to fats. Omega-6 fatty acids, the kind found in typical processed diets contribute to inflammation while omega-3 fats have the opposite effect. Salmon is famous for omega-3’s, but plenty of other fresh foods can be a source of this good fat. Sardines and eggs both have a high concentration of omega-3. For more information on an omega-3 rich diet, read our blog about the benefits of giving your pet whole food additions to kibble.

A routine of regular exercise can also help manage your dog’s inflammation and maintain a healthy weight in your pet. Exercise can help prevent systemic inflammation because it continually works areas prone to inflammatory conditions. However, exercising an area already inflamed needs to be done with caution. If your dog is suffering with inflammation, it is best to treat integrate exercise slowly and with increased rigor over a period of time once you’ve identified the root cause.

Medications and natural supplements can be used to treat inflammation. Steroids are one option provided by vets. However, as previously mentioned, this is not a good idea for dogs suffering with Cushing’s because an overproduction of steroids is the main cause of disease. Non-steroidal anti inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can be prescribed as well. However, many pet owners balk at the list of side effects that also include joint damage, a common reason for inflammation. Herbal supplements are recommended by some as a natural alternative. Ginger, turmeric, and licorice are a few of the natural remedies touted by holistic vets and pet parents.

The best way you can identify if your pet is suffering from inflammation is to keep an eye on their day to day activity. Cushing’s dogs can show lower levels of energy and inflammation will add to this. Reducing your dog’s inflammation can help lessen the effects of Cushing’s at its root cause.