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Hyperadrenocorticism in Dogs and Cats

Hyperadrenocorticism in Dogs and Cats  / Cushing’s Disease

Herbal nutrition to help address symptoms of hyperadrenocorticism (Cushing's disease) and may help reduce elevated cortisol levels in cats and dogs.

Natura Petz Organics pet supplements for Hyperadrenocorticism 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 cells, tissues and glands. The adrenals can become stressed and fatigued, also affecting the liver, duodenum, and kidneys.

Hyperadrenocorticism, also known as Cushing's syndrome, is an endocrine disease that occurs as the result of too much cortisol in the blood for a long period of time. Cortisol is a hormone that, in normal amounts, helps the body perform a number of important functions including converting fat into energy, maintaining immune system function and helping an animal respond to stress.

Hyperadrenocorticism is relatively common in middle aged to older dogs but fairly rare in cats. Hyperadrenocorticism often occurs as a result of a benign (non-cancerous) tumor of the pituitary gland, but occasionally, a benign or cancerous tumor may occur in the adrenal glands. Long term use of corticosteroids causes a steroid-induced Cushing’s syndrome that may resolve itself once the use of steroids is discontinued, however, long term research suggests that ongoing steroid use may induce permanent Cushing’s.

Hyperadrenocorticism is a condition that develops as a result of the overproduction or excessive amounts of cortisol in the body. This is a slow, gradual disease that commonly affects dogs more than cats. Middle-aged to older dogs, particularly breeds such as German shepherds, poodles, golden retrievers, terriers and dachshunds are more prone to this condition.

When cats develop Cushing’s disease, it is usually in conjunction with diabetes mellitus. Many pet-owners mistake Cushing’s disease as a natural part of aging but, fortunately this disease is treatable. If you notice any abnormal physical and behavioural changes in your pet, consult your vet immediately. Although this disease cannot be cured, it is manageable and many pets continue have quality of life.

Clinical signs resemble those seen in older pets with other diseases such as kidney disease or diabetes mellitus.

Common symptoms of Hyperadrenocorticism include:

Increased water intake needs

Increased urination

Increased appetite

Weight gain


Secondary infections of the skin

Secondary infections in the bladder

Enlarged abdomen

Hair loss or thin skin


Recurring urinary tract infections

Muscle loss

Muscle weakness

Easily-bruised, fragile skin


Inability to think clearly

Natural treatments include glandular therapy which uses whole animal tissue extracts or supplements that exert adaptogenic or a read/repair and restore actions on the endocrine system, more specifically the adrenal and thyroid glands.

There are two types of Hyperadrenocorticism (Cushing's syndrome):

exogenous (from an outside source) and endogenous (from a source within the body), 

Exogenous Cushing's syndrome occurs in pets taking cortisol-like medications, and is temporary, ceasing when the patient has finished the course of medication.

Endogenous Cushing's syndrome often results from a tumor or tumors either on the adrenal glands or the pituitary gland.

There are three forms of Cushing’s disease:

adrenal-based hyperadrenocorticism

pituitary dependent hyperadrenocorticism

iatrogenic hyperadrenocorticism:

Adrenal-based hyperadrenocorticism

This condition 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 tumors are enlarged in one adrenal gland while are very small in the other gland.

Pituitary-dependent hyperadrenocorticism

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 affecting approximately 80% of the cases of Cushing’s disease.

atrogenic hyperadrenocorticism

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

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

Glucocorticoid is necessary for the body to function at optimal level and affects the metabolism, nervous system, immune system, cardiovascular system and kidneys. When the pituitary gland or adrenal gland malfunctions and excess glucocorticoid is secreted, your pet develops Cushing’s disease.

Other suggestions:

Feed your pet a premium, holistic diet, free of inferior proteins, preservatives, colorants or additives

Always make sure that clean, fresh, filtered water is available for your pet daily.

Exercise your pet. It helps stimulate the lymphatic system and helps promotes immune health and cleansing. 

Include immune-building supplements in your pet's diet to 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 a pet friendly skin reliever such as Seal 'Em & Heal 'Em, Let's Get This Party Started, or by rubbing organic 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 used to help promote and maintain adrenal health in your animal, to help maintain normal, natural corticosteroid, fluid and electrolyte levels; may help address symptoms of panting, alopecia and urinary tract infections; may help strengthen immunity, and may alleviate symptoms and in some cases, may help lessen the progression. Can typically be used in with conventional treatments.

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 atural 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.

I Want Liquid Immunity -  (learn more) contains water-soluble plant bioflavonoids that function as potent antioxidants which are important in disease prevention; used adjunctively for growth abnormalities such as tumors, cysts and lipomas (often related to poor diet, excessive medication, environmental toxicity as well as aberrant cellular mutations); provides antioxidant protection against free radicals; helps promote cellular health and to reduce catabolic waste; may help address symptoms related to allergies, Lyme disease and other auto immune diseases; provides nutritional, biochemical and plant botanical support of healthy immune cells; promotes optimal immune protection and systematic health and strength; supports bone, teeth and muscle health and integrity and for animals that need extra joint, immune, circulatory and vascular support. Strongly anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-microbial and anti-mutagenic.

Conventional Remedies:

The diagnosis of Hyperadrenocorticism is based on the symptoms, medical history and a thorough physical examination. If Hyperadrenocorticism is suspected, certain tests such as a complete blood count, blood chemistry panel, urinalysis, chest radiographs, urine culture, abdominal ultrasound and blood pressure testing.

Hyperadrenocorticism is usually diagnoses through hormone testing (ACTH stimulation or low dose dexamethasone suppression testing), before any treatments are administered. Further screening tests such as a 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 various treatment options. Oral medications such as Mitotane (Lysodren), Ketoconazole, L-deprenyl (Amery) or Trilostane are typically prescribed for canine Hyperadrenocorticism. 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 have some serious side effects and can also become very costly – consult with your vet about a treatment that best suits your pet needs. With treatment, improvement may be noticed within 4 to 6 months.

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. In severe cases where a tumor may develop in the adrenal glands, surgery may be required.





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