Treating Cushing’s Disease in Dogs — Diets, Natural Remedies, and Medicines

Cushing’s disease, which affects both humans and dogs, is surprisingly much more common in canines — especially older ones.

With a wide range of symptoms, Cushing’s disease can be serious if left untreated. In this article, experts show us how to recognize possible Cushing’s symptoms and how your vet can diagnose the disease. We also cover various treatments — from conventional medicine to surgery, from natural treatments to diet.

Table of Contents

What Is Cushing’s Disease in Dogs?

The most-common cause of Cushing’s disease is a tumor, which produces an over-production of the stress hormone cortisol. This tumor can occur on either the tiny pituitary gland at the base of the brain or on one of the adrenal glands near the kidneys. This excess cortisol production can cause a range of symptoms and health problems. Cushing’s disease is also known as hyperadrenocorticism, or hypercortisolism.

What Are the Types of Cushing’s?

There are four types of Cushing’s in dogs, with two of them being the most common:

  • Eighty to ninety percent of Cushing’s disease in dogs is what’s called pituitary-dependent Cushing’s, or PDC, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This type of Cushing’s is caused by a benign tumor on the pea-sized pituitary gland at the base of the brain, which then causes excess cortisol production.
  • Adrenal-dependent Cushing’s, or ADC, is caused by a cancerous or non-cancerous tumor on one of the adrenal glands near the kidney, which also causes excess cortisol production. According to the FDA, this type of Cushing’s is responsible for 15 to 20 percent of cases in dogs.
  • Latrogenic Cushing’s syndrome, which is rare, is caused by excessive steroid treatment for conditions such as skin allergies.
  • Meal- or food-induced Cushing’s can happen in very rare cases. This type is caused when a hormone produced by the stomach during meals releases an abnormal amount of cortisol.

How Common Is Cushing’s Disease in Dogs?

Cushing’s disease is much more common in dogs than humans. According to an article published in Hormone Research, It’s estimated that one to two per 1,000 dogs are diagnosed with Cushing’s in the U.S. each year. That’s about 100,000 dogs per year.

What is the Difference Between Cushing’s Disease and Cushing’s Syndrome?

In humans, excess cortisol production caused by a pituitary gland tumor is called Cushing’s disease. Cushing’s syndrome refers to the symptoms and problems stemming from excess cortisol production, regardless of the cause.

In dogs, Cushing’s disease and Cushing’s syndrome are used interchangeably for the same disease.

Symptoms of Cushing’s Disease in Dogs

The most common symptoms of Cushing’s disease are called “the five Ps.”

  • Polydipsia, or increased drinking
  • Polyuria, or increased urination
  • Polyphagia, or increased appetite
  • Panting (excessive)
  • Pot-bellied appearance

Jeff Grognet, a veterinarian in Qualicom Beach, British Columbia, reports that dogs with Cushing’s most often display three symptoms: skin problems, excessive drinking and excessive urination.

“These dogs are drinking a tremendous amount of water, then urinating, correspondingly, a tremendous amount,” he says. Skin problems can also indicate Cushing’s disease. The condition can cause a dog’s skin to thin, which can then become infected, Grognet explains.

Eventually, a dog with Cushing’s can develop something called calcinosis cutis. “This condition is an accumulation of calcium in the superficial skin layer, which is very irritating, causes open sores and unfortunately is not treatable,” he adds.

Other Cushing’s symptoms include:

  • Hair loss
  • Scaly white patches on the skin, often associated with calcinosis cutis
  • Skin rashes
  • Darkening of the skin, sometimes called hyperpigmentation
  • Appearance of blackheads or lesions on the skin
  • Unidentifiable lumps
  • Skin thinning
  • Skin infections
  • Other infections, including ear and urinary tract
  • Bruising easily
  • Muscle weakness
  • Bony appearance in the head
  • Sweating
  • Weight loss in spite of increased appetite
  • High blood pressure
  • Erratic blood glucose levels
  • Depressed immune system
  • Heat intolerance
  • Enlarged liver
  • Liver disease
  • Enlarged adrenal glands
  • Mood changes
  • Neurological abnormalities (circling, seizures, behavioral changes)
  • Abnormal sleeping patterns
  • Decreased activity
  • Signs of change in the dog’s reproductive system

Other Conditions Sometimes Misdiagnosed as Cushing’s

Sometimes, dogs are misdiagnosed as having Cushing’s disease when they actually have thyroid disease, or hypothyroidism. That happens when your dog’s body produces too little of the thyroid hormone. Some thyroid disease symptoms are similar to symptoms for Cushing’s, including patches of hair loss, weight gain, lethargy, ear infections and dry flaky skin.

Ways That Owners and Vets Can Contribute to a Dog’s Cushing’s Disease

As mentioned earlier, a rarer form of Cushing’s happens when veterinarians prescribe excessive steroid treatments to battle things like skin allergies. Some also believe a poor-quality commercial food diet — including diets high in fats and low in proteins — can also contribute to Cushing’s in dogs.

Long-term Problems and Potential Effects from Cushing’s Disease

Dogs with Cushing’s disease can develop other diseases and problems because of how Cushing’s affects their systems. Those include:

  • Diabetes
  • Pancreatitis
  • Heart disease, including congestive heart failure
  • Seizures
  • Kidney disease or failure
  • Bladder stones composed of calcium oxalate
  • Skin problems
  • High blood pressure

Dogs at Higher Risk of Developing Cushing’s Disease

In most cases, dogs who develop Cushing’s disease are older, often 9 to 12 years old. But younger dogs are also susceptible, especially the rare meal-induced form of the disease. Cushing’s also happens more often in certain breeds, including:

  • Poodles
  • German Shepherds
  • Terriers
  • Golden Retrievers
  • Labradors
  • Dachshunds
  • Boxers
  • Beagles

Diagnosing Cushing’s in Dogs

Cushing’s can be difficult to diagnose, and often requires expensive tests for a more certain diagnosis.

Your vet will first likely run some tests on your dog’s blood and urine, looking for signs that could point to Cushing’s. If your dog’s urine is “dilute,” meaning it has a high water content because of excessive water intake, that could point to the need for further tests. A high amount of a liver enzyme called alkaline phosphatase in the blood also indicates that further testing for Cushing’s might be needed.

Further tests might include:

  • An ACTH stimulation test:
  • Adrenocorticotrophic, or ACTH, hormone is naturally produced by the pituitary gland, and signals to the adrenal glands when and how much cortisol to produce. In this test, your vet will check the cortisol levels in your dog’s blood, then give him an injection of a synthetic version of ACTH. Your dog’s cortisol levels will then be checked again a couple of hours later. A dog with Cushing’s disease will experience a significant increase in cortisol levels after the ACTH injection, because a dog with Cushing’s will have adrenal glands that have been over-stimulated by naturally occurring ACTH and are therefore sensitive to the additional synthetic ACTH. But the test cannot distinguish between pituitary-dependent and adrenal-depending ACTH.
  • Low-dose dexamethasone suppression (LDDS) test:
  • This test is considered especially accurate for diagnosing Cushing’s but it requires an eight-hour hospital stay. A vet will measure your dog’s cortisol level, and will then administer a small dose of dexamethasone, a corticosteroid. In a dog without Cushing’s, cortisol levels will drop after eight hours. While this test is a good indicator to detect the disease, it can sometimes produce false positives.
  • High-dose dexamethasone suppression test:
  • This test is more precise than the LDDS in determining which type of Cushing’s your dog has — pituitary-dependent or adrenal-dependent. It’s conducted in a similar way to the LDDS test, except it uses a higher dose of dexamethsone.
  • Urine Cortisol: Creatinine Ratio:
  • This test determines whether your dog has unusually high levels of cortisol in his system. A negative result — showing low or normal amount of cortisol — rules out Cushing’s. However, while a positive result could indicate Cushing’s, it doesn’t necessarily confirm the disease, as there could be other reasons for your dog’s high cortisol levels.

Read more  Can Dogs Eat Honey Nut Cheerios?

  • Ultrasound, or x-ray:
  • Dogs with Cushing’s disease may have a larger than normal liver or adrenal glands. X-rays or an ultrasound may be able to detect that. Either test also might show calcium deposits in the skin.

Overall Advice About Treating a Dog with Cushing’s Disease

Homemade food for dogs with cushing's disease

Dr. Jennifer Coates

There are a number of medical and other treatments that can help treat your dog’s Cushing’s disease and symptoms. In some cases — especially if your dog has mild pituitary-dependent Cushing’s — immediate treatment may not be necessary, says Dr. Jennifer Coates, a veterinarian in Fort Collins, Colo. and advisory board member of Pet Life Today, an online informational resource for pet owners.

Dogs with mild pituitary-dependent Cushing’s should be closely monitored for a worsening of their condition, says Coates. “Some veterinarians recommend a natural, anti-inflammatory diet and herbal therapy for treatment,” she says.

A few overall recommendations as you consider or pursue treatments for your dog’s Cushing’s:

  • Talk to your vet before you significantly change your dog’s diet.
  • Notify your vet before you start your dog on any herbal or natural supplements.
  • If you choose not to treat your dog immediately, closely monitor him or her for any worsening symptoms

Conventional Medical Treatments for Cushing’s in Dogs

Possible conventional treatments for Cushing’s disease include surgery, radiation and medicine.


Surgery can be used to remove a malignant adrenal tumor that is causing Cushing’s. But it’s rarely used for pituitary tumors, because they are very small and difficult to remove.


Radiation can be effective in order to shrink the size of a pituitary tumor, which can then decrease your dog’s symptoms.


Oral medicines are by far the most common treatment for Cushing’s. The two most common medicines, which will need to be administered for the rest of your dog’s life, are:

  • Trilostane (brand name is Vetoryl):

This drug, approved in 2008 by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in animals, decreases the production of cortisol by the adrenal gland, but does not affect the pituitary or adrenal tumor. It significantly reduces symptoms in four out of five dogs, but is a relatively expensive treatment.

  • Mitotane (brand name Lysodren)

This drug is a human chemotherapy drug and can be used to treat Cushing’s in dogs. It has a similar effect as trilostane, causing the adrenal gland to produce less cortisol. It has been used for Cushing’s much longer than trilostane and is less expensive, but it often has more side effects than trilostane.

It’s important to remember, though, that both trilostane and mitotane — while effective for lowering cortisol levels — are treatments, not cures. “What these medicines do is destroy part of the adrenal cortex that is secreting the cortisol, and that lowers the cortisol being produced,” says Dr. Grognet. “And that’s what creates all the symptoms in Cushing’s disease. So it’s not a treatment in the sense that it cures it — it really has nothing to do with the tumor at all. What it does is it prevents the cortisol release, which cause the secondary symptoms that are characteristic of Cushing’s.”

A third drug — selegiline hydrochloride (brand name Anipryl) — is recommended much less often than trilostane or mitotane. It works by preventing dopamine breakdown in the brain, which in turn affects cortisol production. But it helps only a small portion of dogs with Cushing’s.

Possible Side Effects of Mitotane and Trilostane

Side effects from mitotane and trilostane can be similar.

The most common side effects from mitotane include:

  • Weakness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Decreased coordination
  • Lethargy

The most common side effects from trilostane include:

  • Weakness
  • Reduced appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Lethargy

Dogs treated for Cushing’s can also develop the exact opposite problem: when their body produces too little cortisol. This condition is called Addison’s disease, and symptoms are similar to other mitotane and trilostane side effects. That’s why it’s important to monitor your dog’s health, so you can tell your veterinarian of any consistent issues.

What Are Natural Treatments for Dogs with Cushing’s?

Many vets and owners have found natural treatments that can help with Cushing’s symptoms. Most of the natural treatments are herbal or dietary supplements, including:

  • Fish oil
  • Dandelion
  • Magnolia bark
  • Si Miao San
  • Ginkgo biloba
  • Melatonin
  • Nettle
  • Rosehips
  • Clover
  • Burdock
  • Milk thistle
  • Homeopathic pituitary extract
  • Homeopathic formic acid
  • Kelp
  • Clover
  • Garlic
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Phosphatidylserine supplements
  • Adrenal Harmony Gold for Dog Cushing’s

For dogs with food-induced Cushing’s, some experts recommend adrenal enzyme blockers, taken a few hours before meals.

Some also recommend acupuncture, which can help regulate the endocrine system and thus help Cushing’s symptoms.

Overall Dietary Goals for Dogs with Cushing’s Disease

Certain dietary changes can also help reduce your dog’s Cushing’s symptoms. They include:

  • Foods high in protein
  • Foods low in fat
  • Foods low in fiber
  • Foods with low purine levels (avoid organ meats)
  • Foods low in carbohydrates
  • Foods low in calcium
  • Foods rich in lignans (including whole grains, nuts and seeds, legumes, fruits, and vegetables)

Specific Foods that Are Good for Dogs with Cushing’s

  • Homemade food for dogs with cushing's disease

    carrots -peas -green beans -potatoes -broccoli -celery -lettuce -bok choy -spinach -brussels sprouts -mushrooms -green peas -zucchini
  • Homemade food for dogs with cushing's disease

    beef -chicken without skin or bones -fish (except sardines) -shellfish -salmon -kidneys -liver -eggs
  • Homemade food for dogs with cushing's disease

    apples -berries -bananas -pumpkins -watermelon -avoid feeding seeds and rinds

Homemade food for dogs with cushing's disease

The Pros and Cons of a Raw Diet for Dogs with Cushing’s

Many believe that feeding a dog a raw diet can help with a number of health problems, including Cushing’s disease symptoms. Since your dog’s natural ancestral diet before domestication included raw protein, he already has the enzymes to break down the bacteria, and you may find general health improvements.

Advantages of a raw diet include:

  • Increased energy levels.
  • Improved skin and coat.
  • Stronger teeth and bones.
  • Improved muscle strength.
  • Better digestion.

Concerns of a raw diet include:

  • Additional supplementation may be necessary, in order to ensure that your dog’s diet is nutritionally balanced over the long term — particularly calcium and phosphorous.
  • Dogs can get sick from bacteria in raw meat if their body doesn’t properly protect against it (in some cases, a dog may not build up the immunity).
  • Proper cleanup after feeding your dog is required to avoid contamination.

While a raw diet may not significantly affect Cushing’s symptoms per se, it can help health overall, says Dr. Grognet, who feeds his own dogs and cats raw diets. In particular, high protein in a raw diet might be especially helpful for dogs in danger of losing muscle mass because of the disease. “It makes sense that having them on a higher protein diet would at least make an inroad in trying to maintain the muscle mass rather than having it waste away because of Cushing’s disease,” he says.

Additional Foods Your Dog Should Eat and Actions to Take If Your Dog Is on a Raw Diet

If you have your dog on a raw diet, you should follow certain recommendations to help him maintain his health, such as:

  • Introduce a raw diet gradually, so his body has a chance to build up the needed enzymes to destroy bacteria in raw meat.
  • Include raw vegetables, eggs, and small amounts of fruit and starches.
  • Stick to only high-quality meat and proteins.
  • Feed your dog small amounts of dairy products, including possibly a probiotic yogurt with active cultures.

Overall Prognosis of Dogs with Cushing’s

Dogs who are treated for Cushing’s can have a high quality of life for a few years — sometimes more — beyond their diagnosis. Here’s what you need to know:

  • According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), the average survival time after diagnosis is two years, with about 10 percent living beyond four years. However, keep in mind that since most dogs diagnosed with Cushing’s are older dogs, they may often have simply died of other natural causes within two to four years after the diagnosis.
  • For cases of a malignant adrenal tumor causing Cushing’s disease, prognosis without surgery is poor.
  • If your dog has successful surgery for his adrenal tumor, the prognosis is generally good if the tumor is benign, and poor if the tumor is cancerous.

Get Raw Meals for Dogs with Cushing’s Disease Delivered to Your Home

If your dog has been diagnosed with Cushing’s Disease and are interested in feeding them a raw food diet, consider and option that’s conveniently delivered right to your home. At Darwin’s Pet Products, our number one goal is to help keep your pets healthy and active for as long as possible. To help accomplish this goal, we provide a library of articles in the hope of providing consumers with useful information to help their pets.

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Or, if you think you might want a trial of Darwin’s (at an introductory price), we would love to send you our meals and hear how much your dog or cat loves them.

— Update: 11-02-2023 — found an additional article Cushing’s Disease in Dogs: Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatments from the website for the keyword homemade food for dogs with cushing’s disease.

If you’re not familiar with the condition, Cushing’s Disease, also known as Cushing’s Syndrome in dogs, results from excessive production of cortisol in their body.

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The adrenal glands or pituitary glands produce this particular hormone.

The cortisol’s primary role is to assist your dog in responding to stress, but it also keeps its immune system healthy by regulating your dog’s metabolism.

There are three types of Cushing’s Disease, all of which have different causes.

They are Pituitary-Dependent Hyperadrenocorticism (PDH),  Adrenal-Dependent Hyperadrenocorticism (ADH), and Iatrogenic Hyperadrenocorticism (IHAC). 

PDH focuses on the tumor within the pituitary gland, while ADH focuses on the adrenal gland.

Cushing’s Disease is most prevalent in older dogs, but you can also see the disease in humans with similar symptoms.

Symptoms of Cushing’s Disease in dogs include:

  • excessive or constant panting
  • increased appetite
  • potbelly appearance
  • extreme unquenchable thirst
  • the slow hair growth or hair loss 
  • skin infections
  • frequent urination
  • has thinning skin
  • weak and inactive

The primary treatment for Cushing’s Disease in dogs is usually surgery.

If the tumor within the pituitary gland or adrenal gland is not cancerous, your veterinarian will ordinarily be able to remove the growth and return your dog to total health.

However, with older dogs or inoperable cases, holistic and medical treatments are available to manage the symptoms of Cushing’s Syndrome well.

According to veterinarians, one of the most promising treatments is, and the easiest for you to do is to cook homemade dog food for your pet.

By switching your dog to homemade diet recipes, plenty of which you can find here, and feeding the dog at frequent intervals, you’ll help him substantially decrease these problematic symptoms.

That’s a brief overview of Cushing’s Disease in dogs, but there is a lot more you need to know if you know or suspect your dog may have the condition.

This article will explain more about the disease, the breeds that suffer from a genetic predisposition, and the best diet for a dog diagnosed with Cushing’s Disease.

RELATED: A Science-based Guide to Home Cooked Dog Food Recipes

Before we get into the treatments, pet owners need to understand the basics of dogs with Cushing’s Disease and what the causes are.

What is Cushing’s Disease in Dogs?

According to research, Cushing’s Disease also called Cushing’s Syndrome or Hyperadrenocorticism (HAC), is one of canines’ most common endocrine system disorders.

Cushing’s Disease is a condition with excessive cortisol production in the body. There are three types of it, each of which has specific reasons.

However, there are two primary forms of Cushing’s Syndrome, endogenous and exogenous.

Under endogenous form is Pituitary-Dependent Hyperadrenocorticism (PDH), which involves functional adenoma or the slow growth on the pituitary.

This is typically benign or non-cancerous and is quite common among 80% to 90% of animals, especially dogs and horses.

The tumor causes the pituitary gland to overproduce Adrenocorticotropic Hormone (ACTH), stimulating the adrenal glands to produce cortisol.

However, the pituitary gland will eventually minimize its ACTH production once it senses the increased cortisol levels, reducing its production.

Unfortunately, this confuses the dog’s body, causing it to shoot excess cortisol hormone levels into the bloodstream.

Consequently, it poisons your dog’s body, especially their vital systems, including the gastrointestinal system.

Another type of endogenous form is Adrenal-Dependent Hyperadrenocorticism (ADH) which involves a cancerous tumor on the adrenal gland. Although it’s not as common as PDH, ADH exists in about 15% of dogs with Cushing’s Syndrome.

Finally, the exogenous form, Iatrogenic Hyperadrenocorticism (IHAC), occurs when your dog has received excessive amounts of oral or injectable steroids in the past.

An unmoderated quantity of this substance can affect your dog’s cortisol production, even if they are for medical reasons.

Cushing’s Disease in Dogs: Symptoms

Homemade food for dogs with cushing's disease

Unfortunately, this condition can be complex for the owner to detect as there aren’t obvious symptoms such as fainting and coughing.

Instead, the symptoms of Cushing’s Disease in dogs can seem like typical issues that come along as your dog gets older.

Some research even suggests that canines that have been spayed or neutered are more at risk of developing this condition.

Below are the most common symptoms of Cushing’s Disease:

Excessive or constant panting

This symptom is due to an imbalance of cortisol, also known as the stress hormone. High levels of cortisol affect the immunity and organs, in this case, the lungs.

Increased appetite

Negative emotions attributed to weakness in movement may increase your dog’s food intake. It will cause them to eat more even if they’ve eaten enough already.

Potbelly appearance

Their potbelly appearance is usually from excessive bloating, one of the after-effects of too much cortisol hormone secretion.

Extreme unquenchable thirst

This symptom results from the abnormality of hormones within their body, particularly the lack of antidiuretic hormone.

The pituitary gland produces this hormone. It is also called polydipsia.

Slow hair growth and frequent hair loss 

The slow hair growth and frequent hair loss are due to the decreasing hormone DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone), secreted by the adrenal glands.

Skin infections and thinning skin

Skin problems are also a consequence of imbalanced cortisol.

Frequent urination

Also known as polyuria, this symptom results from hormonal imbalance, such as unquenchable thirst.

Weak and inactive

Weakness and inactiveness are an effect of excess cortisol production; muscle spasms will be frequent, and your pet may have muscle weakness, which will lead to their inactivity.

All the symptoms above are very similar to those experienced by humans with Cushing’s Disease.

In addition, some studies found that the condition is almost identical between humans and dogs in how symptoms present themselves.

Who Can Suffer from Cushing Disease?

Cushing’s Disease occurs in dogs, most commonly in middle-aged and older canines. Almost all dogs diagnosed with Cushing Syndrome are over eight years old, with the median age being ten.

Although Cushing’s Disease in dogs is primarily due to excessive cortisol production by the pituitary and adrenal glands, veterinarians have accidentally induced others.

One thing that veterinarians do is giving cortisone injections to dogs.

Cortisone is used in dogs to treat several conditions like skin problems, allergic reactions or inflammations, and Addison’s Disease. However, excessive cortisone may initiate Cushing’s Disease in dogs.

And, if you thought that was strange, wait until you hear an even rarer cause – steroid-containing ear drops.

Furthermore, certain dog breeds suffer from a genetic predisposition to Cushing’s Disease. The breeds most commonly observed as predisposed to this include:

  1. Poodle, especially Miniature Poodles
  2. Boxer
  3. Yorkshire Terrier
  4. Beagle
  5. Scottish Terrier
  6. Dachshund
  7. German Shepherd
  8. Labrador
  9. Boston Terrier
  10. Staffordshire Terrier

RELATED: Addison’s Disease in Dogs: The Guide for Pet Owners

Diagnosing Cushing’s Disease in dogs

Homemade food for dogs with cushing's disease

To diagnose Cushing’s Disease in dogs, your veterinarian will need to perform a complete physical exam.

They’ll also have to find out the canine history to see whether the symptoms correlate with normal aging or whether something has gone awry or suspicious.

First, your veterinarian will conduct urine, saliva, or blood tests for elevated cortisol levels or cortisol secretion.

Suppose it shows a high level of cortisol.

In that case, they can then perform what we call the Adrenocorticotropin Hormone (ACTH) Stimulation Test, which will determine whether or not the excess cortisol level in your dog is due to Cushing’s Disease or something else.

They could also perform a Dexamethasone Suppression Test (DST), also known as Low dose dexamethasone suppression (LDDS).

It’s a test to check the hormone production stability, particularly cortisol levels. They use blood samples from your dog to determine if their cells will react to dexamethasone, a synthetic version of the hormone.

However, the tests mentioned above are not the only ones your dog will likely go through since many other diseases have similar symptoms.

Therefore, it also requires undergoing any tests that will examine their adrenal and pituitary glands.

READ: 18 Tips on How to Save Money on Dog Care, Health, Vet Bills, and Meds

Homemade food for dogs with cushing's disease

Treatment for Cushing’s Disease in dogs

As noted above, Cushing’s Syndrome is due to a tumor growing in the pituitary or adrenal gland.

According to research, where the tumor is benign and surgery is an option, the recovery prognosis from the Disease is very high.

In some inoperable cases, radiation therapy can sometimes shrink the tumor when the owner chooses not to go for the surgery.

When the tumor shrinks, it will alleviate the intensity of the symptoms.

Furthermore, consulting with your veterinarian will help you develop the best action plan on treating your dog’s Cushing’s Disease.

One study showed promising results when 42 dogs took ketoconazole or retinoic acid as a treatment. Read further to know.

Radiation Treatment for Dogs with Cushing’s Disease

As mentioned earlier, radiation therapy is a non-surgical process for treating Cushing’s Disease, reducing the tumor size.

Overall, this method improves their condition and lessens the pituitary tumor or the adrenal tumor on their immune system.

It isn’t an effective way to remove the pituitary tumor or adrenal tumor itself, but rather only lessens the size of the tumor.

However, radiation treatment only serves as an option if your dog’s tumor affects them neurologically—if it doesn’t, you must skip this step for the safety of your dogs.

Bear in mind that a relapse may occur if this treatment is not administered regularly; thus, further endangering your dog’s health.

Read more  Red paws on dogs: Causes and treatments

Additionally, there are cases that it won’t be effective, and they may need medical therapy.

Constant Medication

The hormone cortisol makes the body respond to a stimulus associated with stress. Thus, constat medication helps your dog achieve normal levels of cortisol without doing any surgical methods.

So have your vet prescribe medication and never miss a time to administer the medicine.

Avoiding Trendy Diets If Not Approved by Your Veterinarian

It’s essential to avoid any “fad” diets, such as Meat-Only Raw Food Diet, and consider the specific nutrient requirements the dog needs. Remember that only 11,000 years ago, our current day dog began to develop.

While starting as the noble wolf, they survived hunting and feeding on prey alone; today’s dog has a much more complex digestive system. As a result, they can break down a more varied diet, including rice and potatoes.

There are advocates of Raw Diets/BARF/etc. that still argue that dogs should eat a diet dating back to their wolf ancestors, primarily raw meat.

However, studies confirm that dogs are healthier when eating a diet with more variety and nutrition, gaining more nutrients than the suggested diet.

Switching to Homemade Dog Food

Dietary changes are one of the necessary treatments. For example, dogs with Cushing Syndrome have shown remarkable improvement in their overall quality of life when switched from their regular processed diet to a homemade diet consisting of fresh vegetables and meat.

It’s also beneficial to serve smaller meals every few hours instead of one large meal.

Owners of dogs with Cushing’s Disease are often given a homemade meal plan from their veterinarian and encouraged to try the new diet for a period of one month to two months before discounting it.

Some of the Benefits That Come Along with Feeding Your Dog Homemade Food Include:

1. Knowing what’s in your dog’s food – With homemade dog food, you know precisely what your dog is getting—fresh, wholesome, human-grade ingredients with no additives, preservatives, and no extra bulking agents.

Processing food typically removes or destroys nutrients and fiber present in whole foods that remain healthy.

2. Allergy safe – Human and canine co-evolution doesn’t stop at our bellies. An unfortunate predisposition that we share is allergies.

Just as we suffer from the corresponding sniffles, rashes, and tummy aches, our canine companions also can.

Your veterinarian can test your dog for allergies and help you find a diet plan that will meet his unique dietary requirements.

3. Lean body equals longer life – Sadly, our companion animals have also evolved to be susceptible to the same diseases that we battle with.

Struggles with obesity run rampant and are partly due to readily available processed food.

Several diseases are exasperated by weight gain, including Cushing Disease in dogs, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.

In short, the healthiest way to live is to be lean.

4. Save money – Cooking with human-grade ingredients for your dog doesn’t have to cost a lot.

For example, cooking from scratch once per week (or even once per month) and freezing portions can cost less than sacks of dog food for the same period.

VIDEO GUIDE: How to Make Homemade Dog Food

Sample Cushing’s Dog Food Recipes

Sample Cushing’s Dog Food Recipes

Head over to our Dog Food Recipes Section for plenty of health and other dog food and dog treat recipes to get you started on your new home cooking adventure.

Below I’m sharing two popular recipes that are especially good for dogs suffering from Cushing’s.

Beef, Sweet Potato, and Pea Dog Food

  • ​3 lbs (raw weight), beef, cooked
  • 3 lbs sweet potato, cooked
  • 2 1/3 lbs peas, cooked
  • 7 teaspoons sunflower oil

Eggs, Macaroni, and Broccoli Dog Food

  • 3 eggs, hard-boiled
  • 1 cup macaroni, cooked
  • 1 cup broccoli, cooked

These recipes will still depend on your dog’s overall health condition. Thus, it is essential to have a serious discussion with your veterinarian to address this problem.

Home Remedies for Cushing’s Disease in Dogs

While you must discuss any possible medical treatment for Cushing’s Disease with your vet, many owners and veterinarians swear by natural treatments to increase the quality of life for their affected canines.

However, it’s important to note that these aren’t out and out cures for Cushing’s Disease in dogs but rather manage the symptoms.

Also, remember that because these treatments are along the lines of the holistic veterinary area, there is no scientific evidence whether they will work for your dog or not.

1. Cushex

According to the manufacturer and praise from other dog owners’ reviews, this herbal remedy has been created purely for Cushing’s Disease in dogs in mind.

It features some natural ingredients with a proven ability to boost adrenal and pituitary function. This supplement is suitable for dogs of all sizes, breeds, and ages.

2. Adrenal Harmony Gold

Unlike Cushex, Adrenal Harmony Gold explicitly targets the symptoms of dogs living with Cushing’s Disease. One vital point is that this herbal remedy claims to bring thirst and urination back to an average level in your dog.

Throughout my research, I saw plenty of anecdotal evidence in the form of numerous positive reviews of this product.

Owners praise the difference that this remedy has made in their dog’s happiness.

3. Make Your Own

For those with a little more time on their hands, make your natural homemade remedies for Cushing’s Disease in dogs by combining some of the herbs that assist in decreasing or altogether stopping specific symptoms.

But, again, remember that there is no scientific basis for the effectiveness of the below.

Here are some of the herbs that claim to help dogs with Cushing’s Disease:

  • Dandelion – Besides being a medicine for the liver and kidneys, Dandelion helps boost adrenal function and gives a good boost of vitamins and minerals to help with energy levels and vitality.
  • Burdock – This lesser-known yet almost miracle herb is excellent for flushing toxins from the body and maintaining blood sugar levels.
  • Sulfur – Especially helpful in reducing the excessive thirst that comes along with this condition.
  • Astragalus – Another adrenal function booster, this herb also gives the immune system a much-needed boost.
  • Si Miao San – This Chinese remedy works best for obese dogs that suffer from excessive panting due to their Cushing’s. This herbal formula regulates insulin and improves digestion – but, most importantly, it decreases inflammation.
  • Ginkgo Biloba – Ginkgo works in almost the same way as Si Miao San. However, some dogs take to one rather than the other. The best way to determine this is to consult your local Holistic Veterinarian.
  • Mercurius – Another thirst quencher also works as a stress reliever for dogs becoming upset from sudden symptoms.

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Veterinary Treatment for Cushing’s Disease in Dogs

Although surgery is a well-sought treatment to remove both adrenal and pituitary tumors, several other medications can help your dog’s Cushing’s Disease, some of which have been proven studies to be quite effective.

The ultimate prescription will come down to your dog’s specific needs.

The intensity of symptoms can vary significantly in Cushing’s Disease, one of the few conditions requiring entirely different treatment depending on the severity, symptoms, and lifestyle.

As this medical ailment mainly affects older dogs, many owners choose to forego medical treatment. Instead, they decide to let their dogs live out their lives to the fullest.

Many owners who opt out of medical treatment will go above and beyond, taking up an immediate switch to 100% homemade dog food meals for their four-legged friends.

They usually try herbal remedies to help deal with symptoms as well.


Is Cushing’s Disease contagious?

No, it’s not.

Cushing’s Disease in dogs is caused by an imbalance of hormones, often due to a tumor on the pituitary gland and the adrenal gland.

Therefore, you can be confident that this condition cannot be contagious, and you, or even your other dogs, will not contract it.

How Long Do Dogs Live With Cushing’s Disease?

It’s a very high mortality rate sadly once it’s been diagnosed. A dog will most likely live only two years or less.

What’s even more sad is that 90% of dogs that are diagnosed do not make it another four years post-diagnosis.

This means that only 10% will make it to the four-year milestone.

Cushing’s Disease in Dogs: Final Thoughts

Fortunately, life with Cushing’s Disease for your dog can still belong, enjoyable and free of much discomfort. The dog’s chances of recovering from Cushing’s Disease when diagnosed and undergoing special medical treatment are also high.

Still, the cost of veterinary bills may be pretty high and will require a lot of dedication.

Many assume that when a dog is diagnosed with Cushing’s Disease, it’s equivalent to a death sentence, but that’s not the case at all.

This condition is a widespread occurrence in dogs (and horses), that the chances are you may know a dog suffering and not even realize it.

They may develop tumors, but as long as they are medication, they’ll be better.

Your dog will be okay with an early and proper diagnosis. Furthermore, with or without removing the tumor surgically, you can access many choices like radiation therapy.

READ NEXT: 25 Most Serious Dog Health Symptoms That Cannot Be Ignored


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About the Author: Tung Chi