Dogs are amazing companions to human beings, and there is significant proof of that. It is rare to find a dog owner who does not strive to provide proper nurturing, sufficient food, and untold love to the dog. However, in some cases, everything does not always go according to plan. Dogs, like us, are susceptible to deadly health conditions and terminal diseases.
Among the many fatal dog ailments that are usually seen, Cushing’s disease is one of the most common – and fatal. It is not often that a dog suffering from this complication is completely cured. The average lifespan of a dog suffering from Cushing’s disease is as little as 3 years, although proper care and medication can slightly stretch that time frame.
As an owner, you would need to be prepared for some changes in the dog’s regular habits and temperament to provide it with a quality life. The purpose of this article is to explain what Cushing’s disease is, as well as the ways to take care of a dog suffering from it.
How to Take Care of a Cushing’s Dog
There are multiple ways in which you can make the lives of Cushing’s dogs significantly easier and, in many cases, increase the lifespan for a considerable duration. As the owner, you need to be aware of your responsibilities under such circumstances. The following sections describe some of the steps that you must follow to take care of your dog.
Regulate the Diet
Any diet that helps in reducing the effects of inflammation and improving gut health is ideal for a dog suffering from Cushing’s disease. Yogurt and supplementary probiotics play a key part in enhancing the body’s capability to absorb medicinal elements that heal. However, not all probiotics are suitable for dogs, something that you need to watch, being the owner.
Professional vets recommend putting a permanent hold on feeding grains. That is because these food items contain a lot of carbohydrates that trigger the release of insulin which, in turn, makes way for the production of cortisol. This is not easy, as most dogs do not respond well to a sudden change in diet.
You need to adopt a gradual approach. Start by adding increasing portions of whole food to the daily meals of your dog. Try including yogurt, crunchy veggies such as cucumbers and carrots, sweet potatoes, and even a few sardines in the kibble. For a comprehensive list of ideal dog food for Cushing’s sufferers, click here.
Taking care of a Cushing’s dog is a challenge in itself. Although most of the cases end in death, a lot can be done before the time. Just making a few changes to the diet can prove to be beneficial for your dog enjoying life for a few more years.
Aid With Mobility
Dogs suffering from Cushing’s disease generally experience stiff joints and muscle weakness. As dogs grow older, they start to go easy with all the skipping and sprinting. This decreases further if the dog has Cushing’s. You need to ensure that despite the disease, mobility is not hampered as the dog needs to stay active and not succumb to the symptoms.
Install a ramp if your house has a staircase. If the dog is still struggling, move its bed downstairs so that your dog does not have to go up at all. Visit your dog whenever you can to make your dog believe you are there to assist. Similar dog ramps can be installed beside car doors as well.
Despite the gradual bone and muscle loss during the latter stages of the disease, you must establish a light exercise routine for your dog. Start by walking short distances and eventually move on to longer walks. This is an effective method of building muscle strength over time. You just need to ensure that your Cushing’s dog is not getting overwhelmed by the disease by carefully adding exercise daily.
Cortisol is a killer in Cushing’s cases. As it is secreted in response to stress, it can prove to be extremely dangerous for a Cushing’s dog. You need to make sure that your dog does not experience any excessive stress. Provide your dog with a calm and soothing environment to live in. Avoid doing anything that triggers it.
Most dogs hate taking a bath and can get strained every time you attempt to give them one. Try using a bathing mitt that ensures the bath remains gentle, yet effective. If your dog is afraid of thunderstorms, cuddle with it during such events. Regular exercising also plays a key part in reducing stress, as most dogs love going out and spending time in nature.
However, make sure that you do not induce stress in an attempt to reduce it. Many dog owners over-exercise their dogs in the hope that extra effort would benefit them which, in reality, causes more harm than good.
Provide the Necessary Treatment
Various approaches can be taken to alleviate the causes and symptoms of Cushing’s disease. Most dog owners prefer the more traditional method in which veterinarians prescribe chemo drugs. Although these medicines are quite effective at eliminating the hyperactive adrenal gland that is the root of the disease, they do have significant side effects – with some being rather extreme.
Another method that many Cushing’s dog owners adopt is the use of supplements that impact the symptoms and causes of Cushing’s disease. This route is more natural and involves lesser side effects. Research done by the University of Tennessee found that melatonin and lignan are effective in the fight against Cushing’s disease (or hyperadrenocorticism). Providing the sufferers with those supplements can naturally suppress cortisol production in the body.
Types of Cushing’s Disease
3 types of Cushing’s disease can be seen in dogs. Although they are technically different from one another, all of them can be deadly. The variants are in the following sections.
1. Typical Cushing’s Disease
In this disorder, the adrenal glands secrete excessive amounts of cortisol in the dog’s bloodstream. They are located right next to the kidneys. The inner cortex secretes two different types of hormones while the outer layer produces multiple, including metabolism-regulating cortisol, blood pressure maintaining aldosterone, and sex hormones like estrogen and progesterone.
2. Atypical Cushing’s Disease
Here, the dog’s adrenal cortex produces an uncontrolled amount of steroid hormones, which is never a good sign. One of the most common reasons behind a dog developing atypical Cushing’s in the first place is excessive feeding of prescribed steroids for a long time.
3. Pituitary Dependent Cushing’s Disease
In this case, the pituitary gland over-secretes the adrenocorticotropic (or ACTH) hormone. This triggers the creation of an increasing amount of cortisol, a stress hormone.
Dog Breeds Most Susceptible to Cushing’s Disease
While Cushing’s can develop in any dog, certain breeds are more vulnerable to it than others. Care-taking methods also vary between different Cushing’s affected breeds. Below is a list of dog breeds that are the most susceptible to Cushing’s disease.
- Yorkshire terrier.
- Staffordshire terrier.
- Boston terrier.
- Poodles (mostly miniature ones).
- German shepherd.
- Australian shepherd.
- Labrador retriever.
- Cocker spaniel.
Signs and Symptoms of Cushing’s Disease
There are multiple signs and symptoms of Cushing’s disease that you can easily identify during the initial stages. If you even get the slightest hint of this fatal health condition, do not waste time in taking your dog to a local vet for a medical checkup. Below is a list of symptoms that indicate potential Cushing’s syndrome in a dog.
- Excessive hunger.
- Excessive thirst.
- Excessive urination.
- Urinary infection.
- Chronic skin infection.
- Thinning of the skin.
- Slow growth and loss of fur.
- Loss of muscle.
- Irregular immune system activity.
- Irregular metabolism.
When to Consider Euthanasia?
Many dog owners and vets decide on euthanasia when they find that the ailing dog’s quality of life has completely collapsed. They come to such drastic conclusions based on several factors – some of which are listed below.
- The dog’s general interest in its favorite activities.
- The dog’s excitement upon meeting you when you arrive.
- The dog’s overall energy levels.
- The dog’s immunity against infections.
- The dog’s frequency of urination per day.
If all or most of the factors turn out negative, know that it may be time to put the ailing dog to sleep.
When a pet dog gets a disease as fatal as Cushing’s disease, it affects both the dog and the owner alike. However, you need to believe that it certainly is not the end of the world. You can still ensure a quality life for your dog and should leave no stone unturned to achieve it.