When to Euthanize a Dog With Cushing’s Disease

When your dog becomes ill it is important to do everything you can to keep them comfortable and free from pain. Sick dogs can be expensive and sometimes caring for your dog is not financially possible. When your dog has Cushing’s disease you may need to consider your options and make a hard decision, but when is the right time to euthanize a dog with Cushing’s disease?

Cushing’s disease in dogs

Cushing’s disease is a hormonal disorder that is found in both dogs and humans. Also known as hypercortisolism and hyperadrenocorticism, Cushing’s disease is when your dog’s body creates too much cortisol.

Cortisol is a hormone that is released when your dog is feeling stressed. It can help relieve that stress, fight infection, aid in weight control, and normalize blood sugar levels. When your dog’s body produces too much cortisol it can cause a plethora of problems for your pup.

There are two types of Cushing’s disease that may be present in your dog. The most common kind of Cushing’s disease is pituitary-dependent. This type of Cushing’s disease happens when there is a small tumor in the pituitary gland of the dog’s brain.

The other and much rarer, type of Cushing’s disease is called adrenal dependent. This means that your dog has a small tumor on their adrenal glands right above their kidneys. Whichever type of Cushing’s disease your dog has, it is important to recognize the signs and let your vet know if something changes in your dog’s habits.

What are the symptoms of Cushing’s disease in dogs?

The most common symptom of Cushing’s disease in dogs is sluggishness or tiredness. The cortisol that is released into your dog’s body makes them relaxed. Too much of this substance can make a dog incredibly sleepy for most of the day.

Your pup may not be willing to play their favorite games and may spend most of the day sleeping on the couch. You may also notice that your dog is panting much more aggressively and more frequently than usual. If you see that your pet has suddenly lost all its playful energy, it is a good idea to contact your vet.

Your dog may also be experiencing increased thirst or hunger. Cortisol usually regulates blood sugar and weight in a dog. If your dog’s cortisol is not balanced, they can have a hard time regulating their diet. They can eat more, and their increased metabolism will cause them to drink more water to help fuel their bodies.

With Cushing’s disease, your dog may have a difficult time holding in their urine. A dog with Cushing’s disease may have to pee much more frequently. Dogs that are housebroken often have frequent accidents in the house when they have Cushing’s disease.

Cushing’s disease can also affect your dog’s skin and fur. A dog with Cushing’s disease may experience thinning skin. This skin can look partially transparent in certain lights and often is more at risk for injuries.

The skin of your dog is also more likely to get infections with Cushing’s disease. Your dog’s fur may start to fall out in big tufts. Normal shedding is not an issue, but when your dog loses a large amount of its fur very quickly it is a good indicator that something is very wrong.

Cushing’s disease shares a lot of symptoms with other ailments that are common in dogs. You will have to get your dog tested for Cushing’s disease to be sure that they have it. If anything seems out of the ordinary with your pet, it is a good idea to see your veterinarian as soon as possible.

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

The prognosis of a dog with Cushing’s disease depends upon the type they have and whether their tumor is benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous).

If medication and/or surgery is successful, a dog could live for 2 years after diagnosis. If the tumor is large or has already affected the brain, the prognosis is usually poor. At this stage, many vets would offer euthanasia as an option.

In the final stages of Cushing’s disease, dogs will experience increased weakness, weight loss and problems with the liver. Their medication will no longer be effective in managing their symptoms.

The frequency and severity of infections and skin irritation will be painful for the dog, so ensuring pain medication is sufficient would be key to keeping the dog in a comfortable state.

When is it time to put a dog down with cushing's disease

When is it time to euthanize a dog with Cushing’s disease?

Determining when to euthanize your dog with Cushing’s disease can be a difficult thing to do. Treatment is expensive and doesn’t always work to help your dog improve.

If your dog is constantly having accidents in the house, spending all day sleeping, or looks like they are in pain, it may be time to euthanize your dog.

You do not want your pet to suffer or become a burden on you and your family. Making the decision can be heartbreaking but will prove to be the best option in the long run for the happiness of you and your dog.

Putting your dog to sleep when they are suffering may be the best thing to do to keep your dog from suffering.

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

The first thing you will need to do is get your dog officially diagnosed with Cushing’s disease. Your veterinarian will perform some tests on your dog that measure the number of hormones that are present in both the pituitary gland in the brain and the adrenal gland in the kidneys.

They may also need a sample of your dog’s urine to determine the diagnosis. There isn’t a completely accurate way to test for Cushing’s disease, so your veterinarian may need to perform a few different tests.

Once your dog is diagnosed there are two major options that you can choose to help solve the problem and cure the Cushing’s disease. The first option is surgery. The veterinary surgeon will remove the small pea-sized tumor from your dog’s pituitary gland or adrenal gland depending on what type of Cushing’s disease your dog has.

Surgery may not be an option if your dog’s tumor has spread into other parts of their body. Surgery is mostly effective but can be costly and potentially dangerous to your dog’s future health.

The other option for treating Cushing’s disease in dogs is to give them a medication that helps regulate the production of cortisol. Most veterinarians will prescribe Trilostane to help treat your dog’s symptoms.

Once a dog begins taking a medicine to treat the disease, they will need to take it for the rest of their life. These drugs can be expensive and may not continue to work for your dog over time. Your dog will need constant checkups to make sure that their treatment is working properly.

What do you feed a dog with Cushing’s disease?

The best diet for dogs with Cushing’s disease is raw meat, fruit and vegetables. Stick to high protein sources such as chicken, turkey and eggs. potassium is also important, so be sure to include sweet potato and banana in your dog’s diet.

Swapping on to a raw diet should be done gradually. Start by adding a small amount of raw meat, fruits and vegetables into your dog’s regular diet. As long as you do not notice any side effects, slowing increase the proportion of new diet and reduce the old until you are feeding only the new food. This should take 2 – 3 weeks.

If you do not feel comfortable feeding a raw diet, try a veterinary prescribed diet. This dog food should be high in protein and potassium, and low in fats, fiber, purine, calcium and sodium.

Peas and fish are good choices as they are low in purine, but high in other essential nutrients. Swap commercial dog treats for pieces of boiled chicken or veggies like carrots and broccoli.

What dog breeds are prone to Cushing’s disease?

While any dog can be diagnosed with Cushing’s disease, there are a few breeds that are more susceptible. This includes:

  • Poodles
  • Terriers
  • Dachshunds
  • Boxers
  • Beagles
  • Golden Retrievers
  • German Shepherd

There are two distinct areas affected by Cushing’s disease. The first is the pituitary gland. The pituitary gland sends messages to the adrenal gland to secrete cortisol, but too much is produced. This is the most common type, affecting up to 85% of Cushing’s patients.

The remaining 15% have Cushing’s disease caused by a tumor on the adrenal gland, which over-stimulates the gland to secrete cortisol.

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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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