Cushing’s Disease

Cushing’s Disease truly is complex, but it is such an interesting disease, and knowing about how the body works when things are out of balance in one specific way provides insight into – or at least well deserved awe for – how incredible the body is when everything is in balance.

Cushing’s disease is rare in cats, uncommon in dogs and horses, common in ferrets, and also occurs in people.  Cushing’s disease is the common name for hyperadrenocortisism – a condition characterized by excess levels of cortisol produced by the adrenal glands.

I know what you may be thinking.  “Uncommon in dogs, and I don’t have a ferret, and those are some stupid long medical words…I hate when doctors do that.”  Wait, come back!  I think you may find this kind of interesting.  And if you do happen to have a dog with Cushing’s disease, the more you know, the better care you can provide.

The first thing any veterinary lecturer does when discussing Cushing’s disease is slap up an overhead or Power Point slide with one hundred huge medical terms and one hundred arrows. Vets don’t even like that!  We tune out too!  Even The 5-Minute Veterinary Consult book took three pages to explain the disease, when most others are covered in two.  (I LOVE that book, by the way.  It would be a good one if you are just interested in learning about different veterinary topics.)

Noodle the Poodle does not have Cushing's Disease, but some Poodles do!

Cushing’s Disease truly is complex, but it is such an interesting disease, and knowing about how the body works when things are out of balance in one specific way provides insight into – or at least well deserved awe for – how incredible the body is when everything is in balance.  So this will not be an all inclusive discussion on Cushing’s disease (though we can certainly discuss it further in the comments), but more of an overview so that you, as a dog lover, will know that much more about this wonderful species and their physiology.

First some explanations to make the medical words seem less stupid.  I am going to explain the ones I did not know until vet school, so forgive me if I over-explain, or worse, confuse you!

Adrenal glands – These are two little triangle shaped organs, one near each kidney.  The adrenal glands produce stress hormones, help balance electrolyes, oversee the production of sex hormones and manage the body’s “fight or flight” response.  If you’ve successfully managed a stressful day, thank your adrenal glands.  In fact, if you have survived the day, thank your adrenal glands.  I bet it will be the first time they have ever been thanked.

Pituitary Gland – This is a tiny bean-shaped organ near the center and “bottom” of the brain.  I imagine it as the little alien running the guy’s brain in the movie “Men in Black.”  It is much more exciting than that alien in Real Life, and even more powerful.  Among other things, it produces ACTH (adrenocorticotropic hormone) which signals the adrenal glands to produce cortisol.

Cortisol – This is the body’s main steroid hormone.  It supports life and helps manage the body’s stresses.

Which Dogs?

Little dogs, like Poodles and Schnauzers.  And sometimes big dogs.  Usually older dogs.  Cushing’s Disease has a genetic component, so that is why it tends to be more common in some breeds than others.  That most Cushing’s Disease sufferers are the little guys is just an unfortunate coincidence, I think.

How Things Become Unbalanced

Most cases of canine hyperadrenocortisism are caused by an adenoma (benign tumor) in the pituitary gland.  The pituitary gland secretes more ACTH than it should, which signals the adrenal glands to secrete more cortisol than they should.  The adrenal glands hypertrophy (get bigger) as they work to make and secrete so much more cortisol than normal.

Less common causes of hyperadrenocortisism are an adenocarcinoma (cancerous tumor) of the pituitary gland which starts the same chain reaction, or a benign or malignant adrenal gland tumor, which starts the pathway at the overproduction of cortisol.

A thankfully much less common cause of hyperadrenocortisism these days is long term steroid use.  We are much more stingy in our steroid use as a veterinary community than we used to be.  And even in dogs that have horrible allergies or life-threatening conditions in which they need steroids, we are better at balancing that and giving them at a low enough dose that Cushing’s disease does not occur.  It still happens, and sometimes at appropriate doses of steroids, but it is uncommon.

Lots and Lots of Cortisol

It can be quite a trick on our end to diagnose hyperadrenocortisism and to figure out whether the overproduction of cortisol is because of a pituitary or adrenal malfunction, but all your dog’s body knows is that all that cortisol is there, and it reacts, and that is where the signs of Cushing’s disease start showing up.  The excess cortisol affects all of the body’s systems, but especially the urinary system and skin.

Urinary Signs of Cushing’s Disease

Almost without fail, a dog with Cushing’s Disease will drink and urinate much more frequently and at a higher volume than normal, and may start having urinary accidents.  Any time this happens, it is worth a veterinary visit, as there are so many medical reasons a dog might drink and pee excessively!  Cushing’s Disease is just one on the long list.  In fact, we have a fun name for this phenomenon:  PU/PD.

PU/PD – polyuria (peeing a lot)/polydipsea (drinking a lot)

Other urinary signs are dilute urine (secondary to the PU/PD), and sometimes urinary tract infections.

Other Signs of Cushing’s Disease

Dogs with Cushing’s Disease often have a “pot-bellied” appearance.  They may be fat, but it is different…almost a bloated look.  The excess steroids weaken the connective tissue over time, so they are not able to hold in their tummies like normal, their liver may become enlarged and their fat stores become redistributed.

Their skin becomes thinner, their hair becomes sparser or disappears all together, they even have weaker ligaments.  Sometimes dogs with uncontrolled Cushing’s Disease will rupture cruciate ligaments (the ligaments behind their knee caps).  They are more prone to skin infections and sometimes develop hard calcium deposits in the skin called calcinotis cutis.

Cushing’s Disease makes dogs super hungry (polyphagia).  They are more prone to infections.  We do not tend to see mood swings, but I assume they occur based on the effects steroids can have on us.  If you have ever been on steroid medication, often many of the side effects we are warned of will happen to a dog with Cushing’s Disease.  Their own body is overdosing them on steroids.

Diagnosing Cushing’s Disease

Cushing’s Disease is put on a differential list (a list of possible causes of clinical signs) if a pet is showing signs consistant with Cushing’s Disease.  From there, screening blood tests are done and then tests to determine if the pet has Cushing’s Disease or not.  Finally, blood tests are done to determine if the Cushing’s Disease originates in the pituiary gland or an adrenal gland.  CT scans, ultrasound and exploratory surgery are often part of the diagnostic process as well.

Treating Cushing’s Disease

If an adrenal tumor is present and can be removed, it often is.  More often, the problem is the pituitary gland, and though pituitary tumors have been removed by veterinary surgeons in a handful of dogs, it is not routinely done.  Usually Cushing’s Disease is treated medically.

Oral medication is given to destroy PART of the layer of the adrenal glands that produces cortisol with the goal of bringing cortisol production back to normal.  The most common medication used is mitotane, though a few others are available, including Vetoryl (trilostane), and veterinary researchers are always looking for the next best treatment.  As you can probably guess, this is a tricky balancing act with very powerful medication.  Ideally, the pet can be maintained on a schedule that keeps the pet comfortable and adequately controls secondary issues.

Medically managed Cushing’s Disease is never cured, but dogs can do well with Cushing’s Disease for a very long time.  If secondary conditions (dermatitis, urinary tract infections and whatever else) are treated and cortisol levels can be brought back close to normal on a level of medication that does not cause side effects from the medication itself, the prognosis for a dog with Cushing’s disease is good.

Have you had or known a dog or other pet with Cushing’s Disease?  What have been your experiences with diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis?  Have your pets with Cushing’s Disease done well?  I sure hope so.

I hope for the rest of you that your only experience with this complex and intriguing disease is  this post, and that your pets have a long and healthy life filled with intricately and perfectly balanced levels of stress hormones!

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Here is a link to a Canine Cushing’s Disease Forum you may find helpful…

7/15/11  Thank you to Natalie for providing the link!  Her wonderful site K9Diabetes will be featured in Monday’s Canine Diabetes post (July 18, 2011), so stay tuned!

90 thoughts on “Cushing’s Disease

  1. Viva was diagnosed with Cushing’s 4 months ago. She didn’t had all the signs and it was difficult to diagnose. We noticed her liver numbers go up, but couldn’t find the culprit. The vet wanted to test for Cushing’s “as a long shot”. Happy she did! Viva is quite young, only 6 years, very early to contract something like Cushing’s. For mediciation we use Vetoryl (Trilostane). Mitostane is not available in Denmark anymore and all the vets use Vetoryl. Apparantly because there is a much higher risk for side-effects with Mitostane. Viva responded to the medication within one week! She just had her quarterly test (to manage the doses) and her cortisol levels are right where they should be. I am glad Cushing’s is manageable and hope Viva has many quality years to life left.

    1. Hi Kenzo! I did not know that about Viva. You are right, six is young! I hope she has many, many more years too. Sounds like you are SO on the right track for that! Good to hear about trilostane. It is relatively new to us in America (approved in 2009), but sounds like it has so much promise.

      1. Hi,
        My 12 year old female doxie has had epilepsy for the past 5 years. It has been successfully treated with Kepra. But, she also has Cushings. Her skin is in really bad shape, she has so many of those hard calcium like deposits, she has tumors I can feel from the outside.
        I give her a medicated bath once a week to make her more comfortable. She has been urinating everywhere.
        But, my major concern is her coughing continues to get worse. All night long, and whenever she gets a little excited. We try to keep her calm.
        All of her vets have said any medication for the Cushings would definitely negatively impact her treatment for epilepsy.
        As her coughing gets worse I am starting to feel like we are going to lose her.
        Any thoughts?

        1. my girlfrirends dog is showing exact symtoms and is being treated for cushings a nd the reaction is so severe i fear that she she will lose the dog tonight

        2. Definitely ask the vet about the holistic treatments that are available, like Cushex drops, or Adrenal Harmony Gold. I’ve heard and read lots of success stories from people using these products. Being made with natural ingredients you may be able to use it without interfering with the Kepra. Best of luck with your dog.

        3. I would check with your vet to see if natural treatments like Cushex drops or Adrenal Harmony Gold would react with the Kepra. I’ve heard lots of success stories with these brands. Best of luck.

  2. Thanks, Shawn, for writing such an informative blog about Cushing’s. Toby, who is almost 12-years old, was diagnosed recently and is undergoing treatment. He exhibited all the clinical signs prior to diagnosis–excessive drinking/peeing, elevated liver enzymes and dry, matted hair in spots. He had lost quite a bit of muscle along his spine and back end as well as weight, which is a bit different from the typical Cushing’s. No pot-belly for him! Toby’s disease is pituitary-based, and we recently started the induction phase of treatment with Lysodren (Mitotane). Unfortunately, his cortosol level dropped too far, too fast, but was corrected with a course of prednisone. Once the correct dosage levels are obtained, we expect Toby to have a few good years left.

    1. You are welcome! Toby, this blog’s for you 🙂 I saw your comment on my own blog that you were beginning that battle, and it seems as though your family has a good grasp on the situation so I wondered if other families would be helped by a Cushing’s post.

      I love reading on The (Mis)Adventures of Sage about Toby’s battle, and so glad you are “winning.” Great job! Not unusual to have a difficult time with balancing medication. I think you are doing awesome.

  3. My Pallie had Atypical Cushings. Cushings is an awful awful thing. My prayers to those who are going through it now with your precious pups.

  4. My galgo Fynn ( spanish greyhound) had Cushing and treatment worked well for 9 months, then one night she started having seizures and never came out again. We had to let her go.
    Reason for the seizures were the same tumor that caused the Cushing.

    Was glad my vet warned me never to forget that there is a tumor in the brain in many cases and to look out for behavior changes. Because the Cushing may be controlled, there still can be other problems related to the tumor in the pituitary gland.

    1. Good point, Petra. Cushing’s is SO often secondary to a brain tumor, and though adenomas are officially “benign” they are really anything but benign, with their growth and impingement on the brain and abnormal secretions. So sorry to hear about your pup. Sounds like you did a wonderful job taking care of her.

      1. my 14 year old shitzu has just been diagnosed with Cushing disease I’m so scared for her she never been sick only allergies in summer & fall. My vet recommended a Medicine called selegiline & was wondering if anyone hear of it. or if their any remedies that are safe for her. I’ll stop at nothing for her she saved our family so many time. She really smart my husband would pass way if she had’nd call 911 2 get her dad help. He had less than 30 sec. 2 get two the hospital thank god we had her that why I say I’ll stop at nothing for her. Thank you so much & any information will be greatly appreciate. Sincerely susan

  5. I’ve had a couple of Bichon rescues with that disease…poor babies. It was said back then (about 6 yrs ago) that Cushings was more common in Bichons. Is that still right? Or has the numbers of cases increased in other breeds?

  6. My sister’s 10-year-old Beagle was diagnosed with Cushings Disease. The only problem she’s having is that the medication to treat this disease is horribly expensive – $150 a month for pills – is this normal or are there other options?

    1. Hi Cherie…I think that is pretty typical, but have your sister ask her vet team if there are (legitimate :)) other veterinary drug sources. Sometimes price will vary by pharmacy.

      1. Please,, try Good RX. ( You will see that the cost for the medication is so much cheaper you might think it is a scam. Believe me it is not. They give a discount for humans as well as dogs. Go on line and read their site as how to use it. You will be in shock when you see the savings. Good Luck to you and your dog.

  7. My dachshund Ava (not the one in my profile pic) has Cushings which is being controlled through the use of Trilostane. So far, she’s doing well.

  8. My Aunt had a Westie with cushings he did extremely well on a raw diet. Lived pass eight years when the vet said he wouldn’t live past 2. He was also diabetic.

  9. My Welsh Terrier, Max, was diagnosed at 7 years old and lived to 14. He did well on anipryl. He was a rescue and such a sweetheart! <3

  10. FYI – while Cushings usually involves high cortisol levels and lysodren is the traditional treatment for it, a less frequent form of Cushings is “Atypical Cushings” involving the intermediate sex hormones and not cortisol. I lost two shih tzu to this form of the disease. It is not treated with lysodren. New protocols are in place for this type. The Univ of Tenn Endocrinology Dept is where to get info. Conservative treatment such as Flaxseed w/Lignans (a specific recommended brand) and Melatonin is often the way to start. Check out Dr Oliver’s protocol on this. He is with UTENN’s Endocrin Dept. My two babies were elderly and didn’t fare well but it’s a safe treatment to start. Check with a specialist. Many vets are not that familiar with this (incl mine).

    1. Stephanie-SUCH a good point! Thank you so much! (Everyone Else in the World-Stephanie’s information is exactly right!)

      If anyone needs more info, start with University of Tennessee and also I found this last night-on Petfinder (following Stephanie’s mention of atypical Cushing’s) and from there, U of Tenn info article near the bottom of the post.

      BTW, ferret’s “Cushing’s disease” tends to be more similar to canine atypical Cushing’s. Fascinating, but heartbreaking when it is your own pups. 🙁 How sad that both your Shih Tzus passed away from this disease! I am so sorry to hear.

  11. MY POOR DAISY had cushings and NONE of the 2 vets I took her too diagnoised it!! They kept saying she was too fat and needed to be on a diet..I kept saying she eats no more then the other dogs and she drinks lots and lots of water and pees very large amounts…very large..they kept testing for infections…dumba$$es….now she died a year ago this past June…make sure you have a competent vet…

  12. Max, my Mom’s dog had Cushings and it was tough on the older MinPin. What I find interesting is that at one point through the course of events and treatments the poor dog when from Cushings to Addisons. Frustrating disorder!

    1. Erin! Good point, and I did not cover that in the post, but it can happen. The medicine can work “too” well and dogs can develop Addison’s. Poor MinPin! Agreed-so frustrating!

  13. I had a mixed breed dog years ago who was diagnosed at age 9 with Cushings and lived to be 15 years old with it! He took Lysodren for it.

  14. My weimaraner has cushings he is on 300mg of vetoryl hard capsules daily and clinically no change is is loosing weight but looks very bloated, drinking loads. Can anyone help as to why no change clinically?

    1. Hi Jo! Might need a followup visit. It can take time for improvement, and yeah, one of the signs we look for is PU/PD – peeing and drinking lots – resolving. Hope your Weimaraner is stabilized and feeling back to himself soon.

      1. My best friend Chole just passed today after four months from cushings. I really appreciate all of the information everyone has had too offer. Chole had the round little belly and she was loosing all of her muscle mass. Vet said that treatment would probably be to much so we just smothered her with love. Again thanks for all the stories.

  15. I have heard that feeding Diatomaceous Earth works? I just started feeding it to all of the animals on our farm. We should see a difference in 60 days? No more need for chemical womers either? Hope it works for us?

      1. There’s DE (Diatomaceous Earth Powder food grade) in a BioV™ formula for Cushing’s, “BioV™ Clarity Cushings” – Haven’t tried though.

        Ingredients – A proprietary blend of: Spirulina Powder, Chlorella Powder, Astragalus Root Powder, Turmeric Powder, Valerian Root Powder, Milk Thistle Powder, Barley Grass Powder, Shiitake Mushroom Powder, Holy Basil Leaves Chamomile Powder and Diatomaceous Earth Powder (food grade)formula.

        Really appreciate your article! This is a tough, heart-breaking disease … “We hold them in our arms as long as we can, then we hold them in our hearts forever.”

  16. Thanks so much for the informative article. My mini poodle Gibrien was diagnosed with Cushings about 2 years ago. He also has epilepsy and they say rheumatoid arthritis but I don’t think that’s the case, I think it’s due to the Cushings after reading your article, he has had problems with his joints for over a year now so the vet pretty much told me “don’t worry about the Cushings” ! But I do and I have noticed all of the symptoms you have mentioned, the frequent urination, very thin skin, loss of fur, voracious appetite and most bothersome, his huge belly! Whenever I’ve questioned him about this he blames it on the Prednisone that Gibs is on. I had no idea the potbellied appearance was due to the Cushings! Now whenever someone makes a comment about how “chubby” he is I can tell them a reason for it, I always hate it when they say my boy is fat!

    Maybe the tumor is what has been causing Gibs to have the seizures since he was 2…he’s now 9! He is on Prednisone, Phenobarbytal and Gabba Pentin along with Potassium Bromide at the moment! Whew!

    Thanks again so much for the article it really has given me answers.

    1. Glad to hear Heidi! I will be anxious to hear how Gibrien does. It would be worth looking into treating the Cushing’s with all of his issues. And he truly is not fat-he has a medical condition! So tell the commenters that!

  17. We lost our sweet princess Dakota to Cushing’s. She was not able to tolerate the lysodren treatments but managed to have almost two pretty good years after her diagnosis thanks to a vet who helped us manage her discomfort. In the end it was a very bad ACL that took her from us. Great post today for animal lovers to tune in to and watch for those early warning signs.

    Happy 4th of July!!!

    Woos ~ Phantom, Thunder, and Ciara

  18. My husky/shepherd lived with Cushings for 7 years — the only manifestation she had of the disease was incontinence, which often led to urinary tract infections. She and I managed quite well and when she did pass away, it was from a raging e-coli infection. She passed away last January, months short of her 15th birthday. I surely do miss her, but I know when my time comes, she’ll be there to guide me Home.

  19. My cocker spaniel was diagnosed with Cushing’s disease in 2004. He was on Lysodren. It was very difficult to control his cortisol levels, though. He lost so much weight and muscle mass and became so very weak. To complicate matters, he developed pneumonia (from aspirating some vomit) and was in ICU for about a week. After that, he was even weaker and we lost him a few months later. I get so very frustrated and angry when I hear about dogs who lived for years and years with this diease. Mac only lived another 1 1/2 years after his diagnosis. But his diagnosis came after almost a year of my nagging my vet and then finally switching vets. My new vet diagnosed him in a week. I often think that if he’d been correctly diagnosed in 2003, then the treatment would’ve worked much better because he’d have been so much stronger. By the time he was diagnosed, he was already weak from the disease. Best of luck to those of you who have pets with this terrible disease! And if you think your pet MIGHT have this disease, go ahead and spring for the tests if you can. They’re expensive, but they’re conclusive.

    1. Oh Sherron, I am so sorry to hear about your Mac. It is such a strange disease, with such a range of clinical signs and severities…I love the stories of the pets who lived years but would sure be frustrated if I had had the rough time you did with Mac. YOU did wonderful with him and I am so sorry to hear.

  20. Another great online support site is: [email protected]
    My choc lab was diagnosed w/cushings in Dec 2010, so far doing great on just a good grain free food and fish oil (due to allergies) vet doesn’t think she needs to be medicated at this time, so very happy. Her only symtoms are the water drinking and urination, and she is 11yrs old at this time.

  21. Thank you all for the stories of your wonderful pets and for the great links. You have all done great with your doggies and I am so impressed. I am sad for those of you who have lost friends to Cushing’s disease. For those of you still dealing with the disease, I hope knowing so many fellow dog lovers are walking with you and have walked before you is encouraging. And I hope you can keep talking with each other here or in chat groups and ask me and your local vet teams ANYTHING and know that you are not alone.

    1. My 10 year old Yorkie was prescribed Vetoryl about 3 months ago, did another round of bloodwork and numbers are improving but she no longer sleeps with me upstairs and stays downstairs. She almost seems like she wants nothing to do with me, like a totally different dog. Is this from. Vetoryl? Anything I can do to get her affection back?

  22. We have a Sheltie that has had Cushings since she was 2 years old, she just turned 6 this past January. She has been on Trilostane and doing very well. She comes from a line of show dogs, her coat is just as beautiful as any you would see at a show or on TV. Lately she has begun to limp after walking a short distance. When she was 3 she also begain limping and our Vet said she had a torn ligament. Not too sure if I shouldl be walking her at all.

  23. My vet just did a blood test and seems to think she has cushings dx. He wants to wait 3 months and then do the test for Cushings. Is this normal? I am thinking I just need to go back and demand him to do the test now. She has a pot belly, skin problems and urination frequency. What should I do?

    Help needed!

  24. to Anonymous from May, ya, its normal, its a regular test for cushing…sorry, i dont exactly remember the abbreviations, smth ACHT…simply some kind of blood test, which will show the level of whatever is being measured (those hormons). Sorry, not English native speaker, its hard to find proper terms, which i dont use on daily basis. But i`d assume, that first he has to diagnose and then run the test. As far as i know, the test is done for the 1st time, treatment started (depending on weight of your dog), 2nd test is after 10 days, 3rd after month and then repeatedly 1x in 3 months in order to control the cortisol level.
    My dog, 14 years old pitbull is on 90 mg/day, didnt show any signs of this disease, or rather i assumed that getting fat & often urination is a simple sign of getting old. nevertheless, the disease cant be treated and Vetoryl is quite expensive. Cost me around 150 USD each month…but i just found out that t

  25. Sophie is a 11 y/o Bichon/Poodle Mix. A two time shelter dog, survivor of Intestinal Cancer at the age of 3, numerous staph skin infections, left crutiate tear and now just last week diagnosed with Cushing (Pituitary). I’m considering treatment on Lysodren to start later this week. Can I also use Melatonin in conjunction with Lysodren? What other meds are given for Pituitary Cushings? I wanted to see my dog live at least 15 years, she deserves a better end to her life after all the hell she went through with her two previous owners and previous health issues. Any advice would be welcome! Thanks to all on this site that shared their stories, it’s been eye opening, scary yet in some cases encouraging.


  26. Hi everyone and thank you Dr Finch. My Boston who is my “service-dog” and 9 years old has Cushings and I am worried there is pain involved with this disease. I have not started her on any meds yet because her Vet said it would eventually kill off her adrenaline glands and then ultimately cause her death. I feel like I am doing the wrong things with Bojangles in that I have not been treating the disease but rather putting up with her symptoms and I do not want her to suffer. She has “insanity-anxiety” attacks whenever there is food around. We change her water bowl zillions of times a day. I sometimes get so frustrated that I lose my patience with her and I certainly do not like getting frustrated. I feel like my best friend in the whole world is sick and I can’t fix it. We use to be very close and now for her comfort she is in my husbands lap most of the time which is her only solace. Dr Finch what should I do?
    I sometimes find her in the middle of the night on the cold floor and she will be icy to touch. The other hard thing is the belly weight has made her breathing tube squashed so it creates excessive mucous and she hacks constantly. We were told to treat this disorder with childrens benadryl.
    Any advice would be be helpful. The vets are so expensive around here but I want her helped. Can you tell me if she is in pain?
    Thank You
    Bonnie D
    Vancouver WA

  27. My little schnauzer(not really little). She is pot bellied. She started getting sick at 1 year old. They have suspected cushings, she is now 5. She has many signs, including an inlarged liver. But to this day the vet will not 100% say it’s cushings. Even though she knows it is. The tests she takes every year, won’t 100% say it’s cushings. They just do blood work. In 2 months she will do her yearly test. This time were doing an MRI. All she does is lie around all day. We walk her, but lately she won’t walk very far. I can’t go another year watching her miserable. She is very intelligent and I have to constantly intertain her. Which is exhausting. We cannot leave her alone because she has a very serious nervous disorder. She’s also had both patellas fixed. On a 3 level. The first at 8 months old. I just don’t know what to do anymore. She’s only getting worse. No energy level at all. We have spent way over $20,000 on her since she was 1. What do you think should be my next step? Please help my baby. Thank you. By the way, I have her brother from the same litter and he’s absolutely normal!!

    1. I have to say that the initial introduction of Denamaryn of Denosil (the spelling may be off) seemed to be a huge help. This is not a medication but a supplement you give an hour before food. I’m not a medical professional, so cannot say for sure, but it certainly seemed to help. We’ve now moved on to more major treatments, but this was certainly a baby step in the right direction. If your vet is not giving you good options, I’d research other vets. Its a horrible feeling not knowing how to help your dog and only a good vet who you feel comfortable with can really put your mind at ease (at least in my opinion and experience!) Also, its good to keep a journal, I’ve realized that our families habits and behavior makes a huge impact on her condition…ie, try to keep their little world as change free and stress free as possible. Good luck to you!

  28. Our Roxy, a 9 year old Schnauzer Jack Russell mix was diagnosed with Cushing’s almost 3 years ago….however it wasn’t until 2 weeks ago when she was also diagnosed with Diabetes that we began treating her with Trilostane (for Cushing’s) and Insulin. After 3 years of skin, eye, ear, and urinary tract infections, I am hoping that treatment will put some of these issues to resolve or at least make them less frequent. If anyone knows of any useful references or even support groups it would be appreciated-She rescued me when she was 8 weeks old and I only want the best for her and our family! Keeping all of you and your fur-babies in my thoughts and prayers. :O)

  29. Hello my 14 YO GSD has atypical cushings and arthritis. Any suggestions for pain control? She is on gabapentin and tramadol but they mainly just make her tired. Many thanks.

  30. I have a Boston Terrier named Riley. She is almost 10yrs old and has been showing signs of Cushings Disease for a few years and I had no idea. I recently moved to Texas and had taken her to a new vet because she developed another UTI. Her new vet immediately picked up on the disease with a physical exam and told me she may have the disease and we should test her if she gets another UTI in a few months. Well, she has one now (less than 3 months later), so I scheduled her for the test on Tuesday. I have no idea what to expect except they asked my to drop her off before work and I could pick her up on my way home. I know she’ll get a blood test, but not sure what else as of right now. I do trust this new vet though, however, I trusted the others before and they didn’t catch it. Nerve racking to say the least. I’ll keep you posted on her progress. Wish us luck!

  31. On march , 16 I had to put my 7 year old maltese to sleep, I am physically sick. 1 year and 8 months ago she went blind and drinking a lot of water, and getting up all night to go outside. she ate a lot..pot belly..oh…how I miss her. she starting vomiting and diarrhea 3 weeks ago. I took her to emergency vet…they were rude…they just wanted money..her BUN level was 202 and her creation was high, they told me they could reverse her chronic kidney failure….I was very upset and believed them…23 hours, her BUN LEVEL WAS 235 AND THEY SAID IT WAS TIME TO PUT HER DOWN…WHICH I DID…I want to die i miss her soooo much. help

  32. My recently diagnosed 8 year old boy Boston had been on 30 mg Vetoryl for 2 months (also Sam-e & Milk Thistle). He had the hair loss, pot-bellied appearance, lethargic/dazed behavior, increased hunger & thirst initially. He kind of “awakened” and his thirst lessened after 1 week on the med. But 3 weeks later, all the symptoms have returned except for the excessive thirst. 2 weeks ago his blood work had improved but the symptoms remain the same. The doctor who I trust has told me to be patient; that it takes a while to see improvement. He also said he might raise the mg to 40 but not yet. I feel powerless like I’m watching him slowly slip away. Is the doctor making the right decision? Thanks.

  33. I have a female labrador x cocker spaniel. She is only 2 and 1/2 and is showing symptons aswell as losing her hair. Vet took bloods for thyroid condition this morning but if that comes back negative hes being tested for cushings. Shes so young for either of these conditions im jut praying its a false alarm. Unfortunately her fathers relatives have had cushings and ive just read that labs and cockers are both predisposed to an underative thyroid.

  34. My shih-tsu Bichon cross is 11 1/2 and is finishing tests for Cushings….I have heard so many horror stories about this disease.. I am wondering what type of Palliative or Holistic care we can provide for him.. I am a senior on a fixed income and cannot afford the high priced meds to treat the disease. I have decided not to treat,but go on a month by month basis watching him, when he has no quality of life, I will give him the final gift of a peaceful painfree passing..He has been through a lot in his life, at 4 yrs old he ate insulation from a carelessly discarded renovation site.he had expensive surgery twice on his left knee, at 5yrs then about 18 months ago he blew out the other knee. He is not eating all that much and only slightly more than normal drinking water..He still goes all night from about 10pm to 7 am without urinating . He is very lethargic and doesn;t have much stamina on a walk,but if he sees another dog …its like he is a different dog.. It is going to put a huge hole in my heart when I have to say goodbye ….Am I being fair to my poor old Ty.

  35. May I please ask for a suggestion on what to use to very gently bathe my cattle dog, Gert. She was diagnosed this past spring with Cushing’s and we are treating her with Vetoryl. She also takes Rymadyl for her arthritis. The Vetoryl seems to be helping, though her skin and coat is a mess. Before diagnosis she had lost large areas of hair completely, mostly on her lower neck. Three months into treatment her hair finally grew back in the bare spots. Now her undercoat is shedding out and the dandruff is horrible. She still suffers from the occasional weeping sores as well. I’m almost afraid to brush her for fear of creating a new sore or popping an unseen pimple. She desperately needs a bath and I am unsure what to use so as not to further irritate her skin. I believe a medicated shampoo would be too strong. He liver enzymes are still off the chart and her muscle tissue is dissolving away. At thirteen I realize that she doesn’t have long to live and I just wish to make her as comfortable as possible while continuing to treat her disease. Even though she currently has a healing sore, I have to believe a bath would help her. May I please ask for product advice on shampoo, and also for the best possible way to treat her matted sores. She is my best friend. All advice will be appreciated from the bottom of my heart from us both. Thank you.

  36. Our 5 year old beagle has just been diagnosed and has since been placed on vetoryl 120mg once daily. Now there are human warnings about women and pregnancy handling the medication. Will wearing gloves help prevent contact due to the tetrogenic agents? We want to try to start having children the first of the year but we’ve seen countless families have miscarriages due to this medication.

    Please any information you have will help tremendously.

  37. I’ve just lost my wee jack Russell (bradford) to Cushing disease he was 12 I blame myself as I didn’t know he had this I just thought it was an ageing thing with him getting old I feel part of my life’s died with him I just wished I knew about this disease then maybe he would of still be here with me

  38. My 12 yr old staffordshire terrier mix breed (inside dog since birth)usually weighs 44 lbs but since about 10 months ago he now weighs 56 lbs. I’m sure he has cushings disease. (Vet suggests-without testing-almost all symptoms apply) He just started peeing on the floor every night and the growths on his eyes and ears stay bloody because he causes them to burst open almost constantly. The problem is that he now lives with my mother because I wasn’t able to take him a year ago when I moved away. She doesn’t mind and loves him but I fear him becoming a burden to her. (She’s 72 yrs old) always cleaning him up and cleaning his pee messes. I’m just trying to do right by my dog because he is my responsibility and not take advantage of my mother.

  39. Hello to all & Dr. Shawn ! I have my Gizmo overcame Vistibular in 08 ( 12 days in I.C.U. ) and was diagnosed with cushings about three years ago ! I decided against the loading dosage process and instead “we” have been managing this together ! I would give my life for Vet’s to find a cure for this disease !!!!!!!! I do want to point out that Gizmo’s will to survive & the fact that I understand I needed to ” MANAGE ” his symptoms with him has been the way for us !

    thanks for the article ,


  40. My 12 yr old shitzu developed congestive heart failure about 5 months ago. She was put on heart meds and was doing good for couple months. Then she started fainting or having seizure like activity daily. Vet did many tests and ruled out that seizures were coming from heart. We put her on phenobarbital but then stopped because it wasn’t stopping seizures. She is now diagnosed with cushings disease. My vet has prescribed lysodren which I have not started yet. I have read so many bad things about this medication. But I am desperate to help control the seizures. Any advice with cushings disease and relation to seizures.

  41. After a year of suffering our Tena (c 52lbs, Bluetick Coonhound, female) was diagnosed with cushings about a year ago and has since been on Trilostane, one 90mg per day plus also on Tumil-K (Potassium), 90mg twice daily. She is doing great overall though we are having a truly major problem with shedding. Always been a 365 day shedder but now quite unbelievable, creating new hair by the second. Using a ‘ferminator’ vigorously every single day but even that is not helping much. The new hair is extremely fine and her coat and skin thickness is much much greater than any time in her life (11 years old). Anybody else have this experience, any known solutions?

  42. My Yorkie, age 7, has cushings and her Vet put her vetoryl 30 mg once a day more than two months ago. She has had diarrhea from the beginning and has been prescribed medicine three times but it keeps returning. Is this unusual or have any of your dogs had the same experience? I really do not see much improvement in her symptoms, still drinking a lot, still peeing a lot, pot-belly no smaller, appetite has decreased some.

  43. My 5 year old Shih Tzu, Sophie, passed suddenly Monday morning and after reading this I wonder if she had Cushings. She had the thirst, and peeing, and the big belly that did get smaller on a diet and exercise, but never really lost the bloated look. She was a rescue, had an infection as a pup that ruined her eyes, but our get said otherwise she was a healthy, happy dog. She was a giant for a Shih Tzu, a big ol’ panda bear looking dog. Fifteen to eighteen pounds. She was dearly loved and her passing has really hit me hard. I’m still at that point of grasping at straws, you know how it goes.

  44. My (11 year old) Border Collie was just diagnosed with Cushing’s disease.
    I have read so much negative about the treatment that I have decided against it and will just try to manage the disease with him. I do not wish this on any pet owner.



  46. I have a Yorker jack Russell mix. He will be 12 in Jan 2017. He has had cushings about 3 years. He has been on vetoryl a few times. It makes him so sick I was only giving him one pill every 3 days. One time at the beginning of this med it put him into Addison disease. We are up all night with him. Drinking peeing and eating. This morning he peed 10 times in the house before we could catch up with him. He had been out 3 times before that. He just walks along and pees. He doesn’t even know he is doing it. We don’t know what to do is he in the last days of this. He takes. Pepcid for his stomach thyroid melds. Please help us. We love our little Wojo

  47. My dog has all the signs of cushing’s disease but Vet says it’s not. They did the cortisol stimulation test I think, said it was normal. He has the pot belly, is excessively thirsty, pees a lot, has accidents, acts like he is so hungry all the time. pants excessively, has dark spots on his skin with thinning fur. Now recently he has difficulty standing up, his legs seem to just go out from under him and he can not walk up and down stairs any more.. What to do? I’ve heard blood test can show negative when laboratories do not do breed specific testing. My dog is a small dog, part miniature schnauzer, part yorkie. He is small boned but weighs 23lbs very large pot belly.

  48. Very informative info here . But i am lost . My lakeland-fell terrier is already very old , about 15 years. When cushings struck . I got her diagnosed & medication was Vetoryl 30m but this was far too strong for her & nearly brought on Addisons so the dosage came down by my request to 10m which even then i only give every other day or less & the symptoms have eased . Or changed ! She no longer has accidents going to toilet , drinks less & pants less . Shes not so desperate for food & in truth has stabilised on an even furtther reduced dosage . I realise her age dictates that probs will arise & that she probably has underlying problem but she still has some quality of life & i thought id share our experience if it might help info

  49. My 9 year old bedlington terrier has just passed away.
    She started with symptoms of cushings disease more than a year ago and had most of the symptoms…….excessive fluid intake, increased appetite,a round pot-bellied and frequency to urinate with occasional mistakes in the house.
    My vet did different tests along with numerous blood tests but declared that she hadn’t got cushings.
    A year later I took her to another vet who did all the expensive blood tests but who diagnosed cushings ……something that was obvious to me a long time ago.
    She was on the 30 mg vetoryl doseage for just over 2 months before we lost her.
    She didn’t stand much of a chance without treatment when she needed it and her liver was in bad shape.
    So …….all I am left with is 2 months supply of tablets and my memories.

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