When we bring a pet into our lives, we invest in them physically, financially, and emotionally. They become a part of our families, and we become attached to them to a great extent. The level of emotional attachment is even greater when it comes to a loyal and empathetic animal like a dog.
Our main aim is for our furry friends to be able to have a healthy, happy, and joyful life. We strive to give them the best possible food, living conditions, and required medical attention to protect our pets from any harm.
However, at times it tends to get a bit hard for some of our pets when they go through illnesses during their lifetime. Some of these illnesses might be curable, while others may result in their unfortunate demise. One such illness is Cushing’s disease in dogs which, if not treated in time, can potentially result in the death of your furry family member.
How Do You Know Your Dog Has Cushing’s Disease?
Cushing’s disease is the occurrence of a hormonal imbalance in dogs that results in physical and mental issues in your pet. The hormone that tends to be overproduced in dogs with this disease is cortisol that is responsible for controlling the levels of stress, balancing the sugar levels, protecting against immunity, and maintaining the weight of your dogs. This disease is alternatively called hyperadenocorticism. This may occur in your dog due to a tumor on their adrenal glands, a tumor on the pituitary glands or long terms, and excessive use of steroids.
This disease can show up as multiple symptoms, the order of which can vary across the age and species of dogs. Some of the symptoms of Cushing’s disease are:
- Abnormal thirst levels in your dogs
- High urination levels
- A sudden increase in appetite
- Thinning of fur coat due to hair fall
- A rapid increase in the weight of your pet
- Your pet is out of breath and panting at fairly low activity levels
- Low level of energy
- Swelling in the abdomen
- Irregularities in the skin – hyperpigmentation, thinning and pyoderma
- A weaker immune system
- Muscular atrophy
The issue is that any one or more of these symptoms can occur due to any other illness in your dog as well. This is what makes diagnosing Cushing’s disease much more complicated. Some of the ways that it can be diagnosed are:
- A Urine test is conducted to see if your dog has UTI or dilation in its urine. These may also work to detect liver enzyme irregularity in your dog.
- If there are preliminary signs of Cushing’s disease in a urinary test, the vet will move on to see the health of the adrenal glands via an ACTH stimulation test. This is a blood work that sees the adrenal glands’ reaction to the ACTH hormone that triggers the production of cortisol in dogs.
- Another test is done for low dose dexamethasone suppression. This test tends to evaluate the processing of artificially made cortisol that is injected into your dog’s body.
How to Treat Cushing’s Disease?
The treatment of Cushing’s disease in your dog will depend on the types and intensity of symptoms that are being seen in your pet. Cushing’s is medically considered to be a condition that can be mediated and not cured completely. It is likely to become a lifelong condition for your pet. Some of the treatment options for you furry mate suffering from this disease are:
- There is only one treatment for this disease that has been approved by the FDA. This is a drug called Vetoryl that caters to Cushing’s disease that stems from both pituitary and adrenal gland abnormality. However, this cannot be given to dogs that are pregnant, have kidney disease, or are already on medication for heart-related issues.
- The FDA has also given approval to another drug (only for Cushing’s disease stemming from pituitary gland issues), which is called Anipryl.
- An alternative treatment option is using a chemical called Lysodren (used in human’s for chemotherapy) that tends to damage the cortisol producing layer in the adrenal gland. However, since this is an invasive treatment, it needs to be evaluated very carefully.
Cushing’s treatment should be monitored regularly, there have to be periodic vet visits, and you need to keep an eye on how it impacts your pet. There are side effects that can include but are not limited to vomiting, diarrhea, reduced energy levels, and damage to the adrenal gland.
When Do You Have to Euthanize a Dog with Cushing’s Disease?
There is nothing more painful than having to make the decision to let your pet go because the pain they are experiencing is too much. It is one of the toughest decisions any pet owner has ever to make. It is a medically known fact that Cushing’s disease can be mediated and is not curable. Dog’s diagnosed with it tend to have an average lifespan of 2-3 years.
If your dog’s condition has been diagnosed at a later stage, is not improving despite medication, is in constant pain, or has started having a neurological impact on its health, it is time to make that tough decision to euthanize them. It is choosing between having your companion with you for a little longer versus rescuing the duration that they have to be in pain.
How to Deal With Letting Go of Your Beloved Dog
The loss of a pet has a huge emotional impact on pet owners. Whether you are a single individual or a family, losing your dog is a painful experience that leaves a vacuum in your life. The only way to deal with it is by giving yourself the required time to grieve over the loss, understand that they are now in a happier place, try to move on with your normal life routine, and when you are ready to welcome a new furry mate into your life.
Cushing’s disease is a tough experience for you and your pet. But you can reduce their suffering by being there for them, showering them with unconditional love and getting them the required medical treatments on time. We hope that your pets have a healthy and happy life.
Adam Thornton is the Senior Dog Loving Editor at the Best Dry Dog Food Reviews. He is a kind, caring, and considerate dog lover who has fostered dogs for the majority of his life. He is known as one of the most passionate, compassionate, and knowledgeable dog enthusiasts and rescuers in South Florida.