Treatment Options for Dogs Diagnosed with Cushing’s Disease

After lots of observations and tests, your dog is diagnosed with a seemingly incurable disease: Cushing’s. Your mind is swirling as you learn about adrenal overproduction and the effects it has on a dog’s body. You consult your vet and are given limited options for treatment. What do you do?

Fortunately, you’re not alone. There is a community of professionals and pet parents offering support and ideas to give your fur baby the best care and a renewed energy even after a Cushing’s diagnosis. There are treatment options for dogs with Cushing’s disease. Let’s take a look.

Traditional Chemo Drugs

Typically, vets have prescribed a few different drugs for shutting down the overproducing adrenal glands. Vetoryl and Anipryl are FDA approved to treat Cushing’s although Vetoryl is the only one that can treat both types of Cushing’s: pituitary and adrenal dependent. Lysodren is another powerful human drug used to destroy layers of the adrenal gland with Trilostane gaining popularity as well.

These are all powerful chemo-type drugs that can isolate the Cushing’s problem, and they can be effective for some dogs. However, these drugs come with a wide range of side effects, some dangerous depending on how the dog reacts.

The FDA lists several serious side effects for Vetoryl including “bloody diarrhea, collapse, severe sodium/potassium imbalance, and destruction of the adrenal gland” which “may result in death.” Newly included on the package are also side effects of “adrenal insufficiency, shaking, elevated liver enzymes and elevated kidney tests.” Lysodren can also cause “severe side effects” and needs to be monitored closely according to the FDA.

Talking with your vet about the benefits and risks of pharmaceutical treatment option is the best way to make an informed decision if this path will be the best for your pup.


Another option to treat Cushing’s disease is by using a natural supplement or nutraceutical. These nutritional supplements provide a more natural or holistic way to manage symptoms. Using elements known to aid in the reduction of the corticosteroids overproduced by the adrenal glands, many pet parents are considering this gentle approach.

Most nutraceuticals contain one or more natural elements that work to address the root cause of corticosteroid overproduction. Lignans, a polyphenol found in plants and melatonin, a hormone known to minimalize cortisol levels work in tandem to combat Cushing’s, according to a study from the University of Tennessee Veterinary College.

Another compound, Phosphatidylserine, is being used by some supplements as a way to blunt cortisol levels. One study by the International Journal of Sports Medicine has shown this effect in athletes, and Cushing’s dogs may also benefit from a supplement of the same phospholipid. Look for a nutraceutical that contains at least one or more of these elements to best address Cushing’s at its roots.

One more benefit of using a nutraceutical to address the symptoms of Cushing’s is the absence of harmful side effects. Unlike the pharmaceuticals prescribed, supplements are seen as gentler on a dog’s system. Due to extra fiber in some of the supplements, the biggest side effect is usually more frequent stools. The natural management of Cushing’s can be an effective way to bring vitality back to your pup while addressing the root adrenal causes of the disease.

Have a conversation with your vet before any medications are prescribed to address all your choices. Many are open to discussing this newer approach as an option. A holistic vet may be able to offer even more clarity on the subject of nutraceuticals.

Lifestyle and Diet

An additional way to maximize wellness in your pup is through diet and exercise. Though some Cushing’s dogs suffer serious joint and muscle problems, most can and should practice gentle and regular exercise. Big or small, diet changes also have an impact on the way a dog responds to Cushing’s treatment and healing.
Gut health in pets is fast becoming as important a topic as it is for their human companions. Probiotics coupled with nutraceuticals can enhance the effectiveness of the supplements as a healthier gut leads to better absorption of materials.

Separate probiotic supplements for dogs can be found, but check with your vet about the strain. Not all gut health is created equal, and supplements made for humans are not always best for dogs. You can also add a dollop of fresh yogurt on top of your pup’s kibble or raw food. Just make sure the yogurt is plain, as pups and sugar don’t mix well. Always avoid the sweetener Xylotol, which is toxic to dogs, but can be found in some yogurts.

Whatever choice you make, be informed and watch your pup closely. You may decide one way isn’t working and it’s time to try another. In many cases, Cushing’s dogs can add years and vitality to their life with the proper treatment.

About CushAway

Our blog is dedicated to giving you information so you can best care for your Cushing’s dog because our goal is the wellness of your pet. If we can help bring vitality back to your beloved pup, then we’re ready and honored to be part of your journey. Learn more about our Cushing’s supplement here.