Does Cushing’s Disease Affect a Dog’s Back Legs?

Cushing’s disease, also known as hyperadrenocorticism, is a condition caused by the excessive production of the hormone cortisol by the adrenal glands. This can have various effects on a dog’s body, including changes to the musculoskeletal system.

One of the most common effects of Cushing’s disease on a dog’s legs is muscle weakness, which can lead to difficulty standing or walking. This can be caused by the high cortisol levels that cause muscle wasting, as well as changes in the metabolism of calcium and phosphorus, which can affect bone strength.

Changes in the blood vessels can cause changes in the circulation to the legs, leading to a lack of oxygen and nutrients to the muscles. This can contribute to the weakness and muscle wasting seen in dogs with Cushing’s disease.

Dogs with Cushing’s disease may also develop a condition called “pot belly,” which is caused by an accumulation of fat in the abdominal area. This can cause a shift in the center of gravity, making it more difficult for the dog to stand or walk.

Cushing’s disease can also cause skin changes such as thinning of the skin, increased hair loss, and slow wound healing, which can make it more difficult for dogs to move around comfortably.

What are the final stages of Cushing’s in dogs?

The final stages of Cushing’s in dogs are characterized by a decline in overall health and a worsening of symptoms. Some of the most common symptoms of the final stages of Cushing’s include:

  1. Weakness and fatigue: As the disease progresses, dogs may become weak and tired more easily. They may have difficulty standing up or walking and may be reluctant to go for walks or play.
  2. Increased appetite and thirst: Dogs with Cushing’s may develop an insatiable appetite and may drink more water than normal. This can lead to weight gain and an increased risk of diabetes.
  3. Skin problems: Cushing’s can cause a variety of skin problems, including thinning of the skin, hair loss, and skin infections. These problems can become more severe in the final stages of the disease.
  4. Breathing difficulties: As the disease progresses, dogs may develop breathing difficulties due to an enlarged liver or fluid accumulation in the lungs. This can make it difficult for them to breathe and can lead to respiratory distress.
  5. Behavioral changes: Dogs with Cushing’s may become more irritable or aggressive in the final stages of the disease. They may also experience confusion or disorientation.

Are dogs with Cushing’s disease in pain?

Dogs with Cushing’s disease may experience pain in various parts of their body. One common area of pain is in the muscles and joints. This can be caused by the muscle wasting and weakness that often occur with Cushing’s disease. Additionally, the increased levels of cortisol in the body can lead to inflammation, which can cause pain in the joints.

Another area where dogs with Cushing’s disease may experience pain is in the abdomen. This can be caused by the development of tumors in the adrenal glands, which are responsible for producing cortisol. These tumors can cause abdominal discomfort and pain.

It is also possible for dogs with Cushing’s disease to experience pain in their skin. The increased cortisol levels can lead to thinning of the skin, which can make it more prone to injury and infection. This can result in itching and pain in the skin.

How long can a senior dog live with Cushing’s?

The average lifespan of a senior dog with Cushing’s disease is around 2-3 years. However, some dogs have been known to live up to 5 years or longer with proper management and treatment. The key to extending a senior dog’s life with Cushing’s is early detection and prompt treatment.

Early symptoms of Cushing’s disease include increased thirst and urination, increased appetite, and a pot-bellied appearance. As the disease progresses, other symptoms may include hair loss, thinning skin, and muscle wasting. If these symptoms are noticed in a senior dog, it is important to seek veterinary care immediately.

How can I help my dog with Cushing’s disease?

If your dog has been diagnosed with Cushing’s disease, there are several things you can do to help them manage their condition and improve their quality of life.

  1. Follow your veterinarian’s treatment plan: Your veterinarian will likely prescribe medication to help control the overproduction of cortisol in your dog’s body. It is important to follow their treatment plan exactly as prescribed and to keep all follow-up appointments.
  2. Monitor their diet: Dogs with Cushing’s disease are at risk for obesity and diabetes, so it is important to feed them a diet that is low in calories and fat. Your veterinarian may recommend a special diet for your dog, or you may need to consult with a veterinary nutritionist.
  3. Provide regular exercise: Regular exercise is important for dogs with Cushing’s disease, as it can help them maintain a healthy weight and prevent diabetes. However, it is important to keep in mind that these dogs may tire more easily, so it is important to start with shorter, more frequent walks and gradually increase the duration and intensity.
  4. Watch for signs of infection: Dogs with Cushing’s disease are more susceptible to infections, so it is important to watch for signs of infection such as fever, lethargy, and redness or discharge from any wounds. If you notice any of these signs, it is important to contact your veterinarian right away.
  5. Keep an eye on blood sugar levels: Dogs with Cushing’s disease are at risk for diabetes, so it is important to monitor their blood sugar levels regularly. Your veterinarian may recommend a glucose curve, which involves measuring your dog’s blood sugar levels at different times throughout the day.
  6. Provide emotional support: Dogs with Cushing’s disease may experience a decline in their overall well-being, so it is important to provide them with emotional support and to help them maintain a positive outlook. This can include providing them with regular grooming and playtime, as well as giving them plenty of love and attention.

Should you treat Cushing’s in older dogs?

If left untreated, Cushing’s can lead to serious health complications such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and liver disease.

If the dog is experiencing severe symptoms and is suffering as a result, treatment may be necessary to alleviate their discomfort. However, if the dog is otherwise healthy and is not experiencing any significant symptoms, treatment may not be necessary.

In cases where treatment is deemed necessary, there are several options available. One option is to use medication to suppress the production of cortisol by the adrenal glands. Medications such as trilostane and mitotane are commonly used to treat Cushing’s in dogs. These medications can be effective in controlling symptoms and can help to improve the dog’s overall quality of life.

Another option is to surgically remove the affected adrenal gland. This is known as an adrenalectomy and is typically performed in cases where medication is not effective or cannot be used. Surgery can be a more invasive option and carries a higher risk of complications, but it can be highly effective in treating Cushing’s.

Regardless of the treatment chosen, it is important to closely monitor the dog’s condition and to make adjustments to the treatment plan as needed. This may involve adjusting the dosage of medication or scheduling follow-up appointments with the veterinarian.

Can you treat Cushing’s disease in dogs naturally?

Conventional treatment options for Cushing’s disease include surgery, radiation therapy, and medication. However, there are also natural treatment options that can be used to manage the disease and improve the quality of life for dogs with Cushing’s.

One natural treatment option for Cushing’s disease in dogs is the use of herbal supplements. Some herbs that have been found to be effective in managing the disease include ashwagandha, licorice root, and holy basil. These herbs help to regulate the production of cortisol and support the adrenal and pituitary glands.

Another natural treatment option is the use of a diet that is low in carbohydrates and high in protein. This type of diet helps to regulate blood sugar levels and support the liver, which is often affected by Cushing’s disease.

Exercise and weight management are also important for dogs with Cushing’s disease. Regular exercise helps to improve muscle tone and reduce the risk of obesity, which is a common complication of the disease.

In addition, managing stress levels is crucial for dogs with Cushing’s disease. Stress can trigger the release of cortisol, which can exacerbate the symptoms of the disease. Therefore, providing a calm and peaceful environment for your dog is essential.

When is it time to put down a dog with Cushing’s?

The decision to put down a dog with Cushing’s is a difficult one that should be made with the guidance of a veterinarian. There are several factors that should be considered when determining if it is time to put down a dog with Cushing’s.

First, the severity of the dog’s symptoms should be evaluated. If the dog is experiencing severe pain, discomfort, or other symptoms that greatly affect their quality of life, it may be time to consider putting them down.

Second, the progression of the disease should be considered. If the dog’s condition is rapidly deteriorating and there is no hope for improvement, it may be more humane to put them down rather than allow them to suffer.

Third, the cost and availability of treatment should be taken into account. Cushing’s can be a costly condition to treat, and if the cost of treatment is prohibitive or the treatment options are limited, it may be more compassionate to put the dog down.

Finally, the dog’s overall quality of life should be considered. If the dog is unable to enjoy the things they once did, such as playing, going for walks, or spending time with their family, it may be time to consider putting them down.


Hannah Elizabeth is an English animal behavior author, having written for several online publications. With a degree in Animal Behaviour and over a decade of practical animal husbandry experience, Hannah's articles cover everything from pet care to wildlife conservation. When she isn't creating content for blog posts, Hannah enjoys long walks with her Rottweiler cross Senna, reading fantasy novels and breeding aquarium shrimp.

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