It’s not unusual for aging canines to develop the endocrine condition known as Cushing’s disease. Formally known as hyperadrenocorticism, Cushing’s disease generally results from a benign tumor on the pituitary gland. This gland “rules” the endocrine system and produces various hormones, and the growth causes it to overproduce adrenocorticotropic hormone, or ACTH. In about 20 percent of cases, a tumor on one or both of your pet’s adrenal glands induces excess cortisol production. Cortisol is a natural steroid, but excess amounts leave your dog’s body vulnerable to all sorts of maladies.
Standard treatment for Cushing’s disease involves powerful medications which can cause serious side effects. Some of these drugs are contraindicated in dogs suffering from kidney and liver disease and other afflictions common in senior dogs. Find a reputable holistic veterinarian to see if a natural treatment regimen may benefit your dog with Cushing’s disease. Natural treatments are more helpful to dogs diagnosed in the early stages of hyperadrenocorticism.
Suspect Cushing’s disease if your older dog develops any of the following symptoms:
- increased thirst and urination
- constant hunger
- hair thinning and loss
- muscle weakness
- frequent panting
- darkening skin
- recurring infections
Since these symptoms mimic those of other diseases, it is crucial that you have your dog tested. A simple blood test reveals excess cortisol in your dog’s system. An ultrasound shows whether there is a tumor on the adrenal glands. Approximately half of such tumors are benign – but that means there’s a 50 percent chance of malignancy. For some dogs, surgical removal of the tumor is an option.
Changing your dog’s diet may ease many of the Cushing’s symptoms. Your vet may recommend a raw diet or suggest home-cooked meals. If your dog is not currently consuming grain-free food, it’s time to make the switch. Avoid dry foods and feed your pet as little processed food as possible – that includes treats.
The ancient Chinese practice of acupuncture has many uses, and regular treatments can help regulate hormones and relieve symptoms. Tiny needles inserted into the corresponding acupuncture point are no longer the only game in town. Veterinarians can now use lasers on these points with the same effect as needles. Nervous dogs or those that tend to squirm a lot at the veterinary clinic may do better with lasers than needles.
Certain herbs help control Cushing’s symptoms. Dandelion helps restore normal functioning to canine adrenal glands. Another common herb, ginkgo biloba, slows down the adrenal glands’ release of cortisol. Astragalus boosts the immune system, while burdock helps eliminate toxins from the body. Various Chinese herbs, such as Si Miao San, are useful for treating dogs with particular symptoms. These include overweight canines experiencing constant panting.
Your vet can recommend supplements to help your dog fight Cushing’s disease. Common supplements that help reduce the inflammation occurring with Cushing’s disease include:
- fish oil
- flaxseed oil
Melatonin may help your insomniac dog regain a regular sleep schedule.
Natural remedies may help your dog in his battle against Cushing’s disease, but don’t start making dietary changes and giving your pet herbs and supplements on your own. Your dog needs a specific treatment protocol that only an experienced holistic veterinarian can develop. Your vet must see your dog regularly for blood testing and an overall evaluation.
Keep in mind that natural treatments may work for a while on your dog, but you might eventually have to go the conventional treatment route. Your vet will let you know when it is time. If your dog does require conventional medication – such as Trilosten – he may require a smaller dosage if he continues to receive dietary and herbal therapy and acupuncture treatment.