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Cushing's Disease in dogs and cats / Cushing disease in dogs and cats

Cushing’s disease in dogs and cats

Herbal treatments to help address conditional needs of Cushing's disease in dogs and cats and to help address symptoms of elevated cortisol levels and to help nutritionally promote glandular balance.  

Pet supplements for Cushing's disease in dogs and cats.

The endocrine system interacts with many organs and bodily systems, and the adrenal and thyroid glands plays a major role in providing critical trace nutrient support to all glands and tissue. When the adrenals become stressed and fatigued, they also affect the liver, duodenum, and kidneys. Providing nutritional support when Cushing's disease presents is crucial. 

Cushing's disease, also known as hyperadrenocorticism, also referred to as Cushing's syndrome, is an endocrine disease that develops as a result of an overproduction or excessive amount of cortisol in the body. Cortisol is a naturally occurring hormone that helps your dog and cat perform a number of important functions including converting fat into energy, maintaining immune system function and responding properly to all types of stress.

In a healthy pet, the pituitary gland, which is located at the base of the brain, produces the adrenocorticotrophic hormone (ACTH), which stimulates the adrenal glands to secrete natural glutocorticoid or cortisol hormones into the bloodstream.

Naturally occurring glucocorticoids are necessary for the animal body to function at an optimal level and also affect metabolism, the nervous system, the immune system, the cardiovascular system and the kidneys. When the pituitary gland or adrenal gland malfunctions and excess glucocorticoids are secreted, your pet can develop Cushing’s disease.

Cushing’s disease also can occur as a result of a benign (non-cancerous) tumor of the pituitary gland, but occasionally, a tumor (benign or cancerous) may occur within the adrenal glands. Long term use of glucocorticoids or corticosteroids can cause a secondary, steroid-induced form of the disease called Cushing’s syndrome, which may resolve itself once the use of steroids is discontinued. However, long term research suggests that if your pet has been prescribed an ongoing steroid regimen, it may induce permanent (chronic) Cushing’s.

Cushing’s disease is a slow, gradual disease that commonly affects dogs more than cats. Middle-aged to senior dogs, and German shepherds, poodles, golden retrievers, terriers and dachshunds are more susceptible. When cats develop Cushing’s disease, it is usually in conjunction with diabetes mellitus. Pets diagnosed with Cushing's should have their blood sugar levels monitored by their vet as it commonly presents with the disease.

Pets with Cushing’s disease often have increased water intake needs, increased urination, increased appetite, weight gain and panting. Secondary infections of the skin and bladder are also common in pets with Cushing’s disease. Natural treatments include glandular therapy which uses herbal supplements that act as corrective adaptogens to help nutritionally repair dysfunction in the endocrine system, specifically the adrenal and thyroid glands.

Many pet owners mistake Cushing’s disease as a natural part of aging. If you notice any abnormal physical and behavioral changes in your pet, consult your Vet immediately. Although this disease cannot be cured, it is manageable with supplementation and many pets and pet owners continue to have quality of life.

There are three forms of Cushing’s disease:

Adrenal-based hyperadrenocorticism

Pituitary dependent hyperadrenocorticism

Iatrogenic hyperadrenocorticism:

Adrenal-based hyperadrenocorticism develops as a result of an adrenal tumor that causes an overproduction of glucocorticoids. It is estimated that adrenal tumors are the cause for at least 15 to 20% of Cushing’s disease cases. These types of tumors are enlarged in one adrenal gland while are very small in the other gland.

Pituitary-dependent hyperadrenocorticism occurs as a result of the overproduction of the ACTH hormone by the pituitary gland in the brain due to pituitary tumors. Both adrenal glands are enlarged and represent approximately 80% of the cases of Cushing’s disease.

Iatrogenic hyperadrenocorticism develops when a pet is given too many steroid type medications for health problems related to allergies or skin disorders. The adrenal glands tend to be very small because of the overproduction of glucocorticosteroids.

Common symptoms and signs include:

Increased drinking

Increased urination

Excessive eating

Enlarged abdomen

Hair loss or thin skin


Rapid or fast breathing

Recurring urinary tract infections (UTI’s)

There are 2 types of Cushing's syndrome:

Exogenous (from an outside source). Exogenous Cushing's syndrome occurs in pets using cortisol-like medications, such as steroids. If the medication is used short term, Cushing’s may resolve once the cortisol regimen is stopped. For long term cortisol use, Cushing’s may present permanently.  

Endogenous (caused by dysfunction within your pet’s body). Endogenous Cushing's syndrome is rarer in form, and usually results from a tumor or tumors either on the adrenal glands or the pituitary gland.

Common symptoms of Cushing's syndrome include:

Weight gain

Muscle loss

Muscle weakness

Easily-bruised, fragile skin

Reduced reproductive drive


Inability to focus or concentrate

Other suggestions:

Feed your dog and cat a healthy, holistic home cooked, raw or premium kibble diet, without preservatives, colorants or additives

Give your pet clean, fresh, filtered water daily 

Make sure your pet gets plenty of daily exercise to stimulate the lymphatic system

Add immune-building supplements into the diet to help boost the immune system and ward off infection

Use a combination of anti-oxidants such as selenium, vitamin E and C to reduce cortisol production

Relieve itchy skin by using tea tree shampoo or rubbing coconut oil on the skin

Herbal Nutrition - (listed in order of relevance and recommendation by holistic vets - human grade meets/exceeds highest safety criteria for pets)

Herbal remedies are a safe and effective means to help promote and may help maintain adrenal health in your animal; to help maintain normal and naturally occurring cortisol, glucocorticoid, corticosteroid, fluid and electrolyte levels in the body; to help reduce symptoms related to extreme thirst, panting and skin disorders; to help promote glandular balance; to help fight infection and other common conditions related to Cushing's disease. Herbal remedies can typically be used in conjunction with conventional treatment.

Although Cushing’s disease cannot be cured, herbal treatments can help to strengthen your pet’s immunity, help balance the endocrine system, help nourish and potentially rebuild glandular tissue, help nutritionally alleviate symptoms and in some cases, limit the progression of the syndrome or disease. Because Cushing's is chronic, supplementation will likely be ongoing throughout the life of your animal. Many animals have experienced tremendous health benefits and quality of life from the use of supplementation. Depending on severity, age, diet and environment, best results tend to be visible after 2-3 months of use.

I AM A ROCK STAR - (learn more) may nutritionally help support and nourish the endocrine system; help support adrenal and thyroid gland health and response to stress and metabolic demand, help support proper HPA (Hypothalmic Pituitary and Adrenal) gland function, help support glandular ability to rebuild and regenerate, help promote hormonal balance, help regulate stress on liver, kidney and digestive functions by reducing thirst and excessive elimination, may help promote cognitive function and memory performance, may help balance blood sugar levels, may lend support to the pancreas in cases of dysfunction; for natural energy in all life stages of pets, but especially adult, senior and convalescing dogs and cats, may help increase muscle use, ability and stamina, may help provide anti-inflammatory and immune support, and may help maintain overall healthy adrenal, central nervous, digestive, immune and reproductive systems due to tonic, natural plant chemical functions.

Dog & Cat Kryptonite– (learn more) helps support hypothalamic-pituitary adrenal (HPA) function, helps enable the body to respond normally to stress and metabolic demands while supporting the glands' ability to rebuild and regenerate, may help support healthy energy levels and vitality, helps promote cognitive (brain) function and memory performance and contains critical trace nutrients and antioxidants which may be important preventatives for cognitive decline; may be especially useful for lethargic, aging or convalescing animals due to its amino acid and protein converting phytochemical content, may help regulate the organs which secrete hormones, including the pituitary, parotid, thyroid and adrenal glands, the pancreas, and the testes; may stimulate the hypothalamus and thyroid glands when underperforming; may help support overall systemic endocrine function, including its impact on the central nervous, digestive, immune and reproductive systems; for its support of cognitive (brain) function, particularly in degenerative conditions.

Dogs Love Maca – (learn more) is a highly specialized super food and adaptogenic herb that may help identify metabolic, environmental, emotional and oxidative stress in your pet (may be used for dogs and cats) and may nutritionally help restore whole body balance in cases of dysfunction; used holistically to help address both Cushing's and Addison's as well as hypothyroidism due to its adaptogenic plant actions to bring gland and hormone production into balance; nutritive, contains natural plant phytochemicals which may help nourish gland health, support proper hormonal response throughout the body, may help counteract adrenal fatigue and may be particularly useful in supporting TSH, T3 and T4 hormone production; may encourage cellular health throughout the body related to gland health; may help regulate stress response and helps support proper metabolic rates, along with cognitive, cardiovascular and reproductive support; tonic in nature, may help tone and strengthen all body systems to help achieve optimal wellness, particularly as it relates to building and maintaining energy, focus and overall system balance.

CATS LOVE SUMA (learn more) (dogs love Suma too) is a whole food organic meal topper, to help “top off” your cat's nutrition, formulated to help bring all body systems into balance; may help optimize health; may help identify metabolic, environment, emotional and oxidative stress in your cat; may help regulate gland function, especially HPA function, affecting the hypothalamus, pituitary and adrenal glands; may also provide nutritional support to the thyroid and parotid glands; may help address nutritional deficiencies and exert a rejuvenating and restorative effect, with special emphasis placed on endocrine, nervous, digestive, cardiovascular, immune and reproductive system functions; may help promote proper nutrient assimilation, balanced immunity as well as may help foster resistance to infection and disease. Suma may positively affect your cat’s energy, vitality and endurance and may help optimize overall wellness.

Hepa Protect – (learn more) may help support proper liver function and metabolism, bile production and flow, ma help rehabilitate the performance, health and repair of the liver, kidneys, bladder and gall bladder, may help rehabilitate and detoxify the kidneys and liver; tones and balances the connective tissue of the liver, kidneys and bladder, normalizes liver enzyme levels, regulates kidney acid/alkaline levels, for all types of stones and gravel of the liver, kidneys, bladder and gallbladder, including oxalate and struvite crystals and stones; reduces uric acid, for gall bladder inflammation, gall stones and gallbladder infections, for renal colic and renal calculi; helps to protect red blood cell formation, useful in diseases such as ehrlichia, ehrlichiosis.

Conventional Remedies:

The diagnosis of Cushing’s disease is based on the presenting symptoms, medical history and a thorough physical examination. If Cushing’s disease is suspected, tests will be performed such as a complete blood count, blood chemistry panel, urinalysis, chest radiographs, urine culture, abdominal ultrasound and blood pressure testing.

Cushing’s disease is usually diagnosed through hormone testing via ACTH stimulation or low dose dexamethasone suppression testing. Further screening tests may include urine cortisol, creatinine ratio, low dose dexamethasone suppression test, ultrasound and high dose dexamethasone suppression test

Depending on the severity of your pet’s condition, your vet may recommend oral medications as treatment including Mitotane (Lysodren), Ketoconazole, L-deprenyl (Amery) or Trilostane.

Mitotane is the most widely used medication, similar to chemotherapy. This type of therapy is life-long, and while undergoing therapy, your pet has to be monitored carefully to determine whether the treatment is successful.

These medications all have serious side effects. Please consult with your vet as to your pet’s quality of life throughout treatment. Improvement is typically noticed within 4 to 6 months. Consider strongly the use of herbal and marine supplements for Cushing’s syndrome or Cushing’s disease.

If your pet develops Cushing’s disease because of the overuse of corticosteroids to treat allergies or skin disorders, your pet may have to be weaned off the medication first.

If Cushing’s is due to a tumor on the adrenal glands, surgery may be required.




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