Does your dog have Cushing’s disease? While this disease can be easily managed, there may come a time when you must euthanize your dog with Cushing’s disease. While the average lifespan of a dog with Cushing’s disease is about three years after their initial diagnosis, many can live a fully normal and happy life while managing this disease.
In this article, Dr. Sara Ochoa, DVM, will explain what Cushing’s disease is and how to treat it. She will also answer the important question of “When to euthanize a dog with Cushing’s disease?” Choosing when to put your dog down with Cushing’s disease is not an easy choice.
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What is Cushing’s Disease in Dogs?
Cushing’s disease occurs when your dog’s body produces high levels of cortisol. These steroid hormones come from the adrenal glands. The high levels of cortisol are either produced by their adrenal gland overworking because of a mass on their adrenal gland or a mass located in your dog’s brain telling your dog’s adrenal glands to produce more steroids. When your dog’s adrenal glands are not functioning properly, it causes an issue with metabolism, stress level, and even blood pressure.
Cause of Cushing’s Disease in Dogs
Cushing’s disease is caused by your dog’s body overproducing a steroid hormone. There are three main causes of this disease, and each one carries their own prognosis.
Pituitary-dependent Cushing’s disease is the most common cause of Cushing’s. This is when there is a tumor on your dog’s pituitary gland. This tumor will cause there to be an overproduction of ACTH hormone, which will trigger the adrenal glands to produce an excessive amount of cortisol.
The pituitary tumor can be either malignant or benign, and the symptoms that you see will vary based on the size of the tumor. Many owners do not have extensive diagnostics done for their dog to figure out if there is a pituitary-dependent tumor, so it is usually treated as the tumor is benign.
Cushing’s disease can be caused by tumors on your dog’s adrenal gland. In dogs where the tumor is benign, it can be surgically removed. Removing the tumor will often cure your dog of Cushing’s disease. If the tumor is malignant, the prognosis is often grim.
Cushing’s disease can also occur in your dog when they have been on long-term steroids. Steroids are often given for good reason to manage other conditions by your veterinarian. This becomes a juggling act of weighing out the importance of steroid use and managing the new condition.
Symptoms of Cushing’s Disease in Dogs
There are many signs that would lead you to think that your dog has Cushing’s disease. These are some of the most common signs that are seen in dogs with Cushing’s disease:
- Pot Bell appearance: Due to the high levels of cortisol in their body, your dog will retain water and gain weight. This is most commonly seen in your dog’s abdomen causes your dog to have a potty bell appearance.
- Increase in Liver enzyme: Cortisol also affects your dog’s liver values. Dogs that have Cushing’s disease will have high liver values. High liver values are one of the first things that hit your veterinarian that your dog has Cushing’s disease.
- Increase thirst: Your dog may also drink more water because of the increased steroids that are in their body.
- Increased urination: If your dog drinks more water, they are also going to need to urinate more.
If your dog has any of these signs, it would be best for your dog to see a veterinarian and get tested for Cushing’s disease. If your dog has suspected Cushing’s disease, your veterinarian will want to run blood tests to see if, therefore, you see these signs. An easy blood test can diagnose Cushing’s disease.
How long can Dogs live with Cushing’s Disease?
A dog with Cushing’s disease can live for many years. Most dogs will live normal lifespans with this disease. There are a few issues where you may have to consider euthanizing your dog with Cushing’s disease, but most will die of other causes.
When is it time to euthanize a dog with Cushing’s disease?
While Cushing’s disease is not a death sentence for your dog and can easily be managed with daily medications, it does eventually come a time when it is time to say goodbye to your pet. These are a few things that you should consider when trying to figure out if it is time to euthanize your dog with Cushing’s disease
- Is your dog having more good days than bad days?
- Is your dog vomiting or having diarrhea?
- Is your dog in pain?
- Is your dog happy to see you?
- Is your dog able to control its urinating?
If you can answer all these questions positively, then it is not time to euthanize your dog. If your answer to all these questions is negative, then it may be time to euthanize your dog or at least talk to your vet about your pet’s quality of life.
Treatment for Cushing’s Disease
If your dog does have Cushing’s disease, there are different ways this can be treated. These are the most common drugs used to treat Cushing’s disease in your dog.
- Vetoryl (trilostane): this is the most common drug that is used to treat Cushing’s disease. This medication can be expensive, but it will decrease the level of cortisol in your dog’s body.
- Lysodren (Mitotane): this is an older drug that is not used very much because of the unwanted side effects. This is cheaper but comes with unwanted side effects like diarrhea, loss of appetite, and vomiting.
- Nizoral (Ketoconazole): This is an antifungal medication that can help treat Cushing’s disease if Cushing’s disease is caused by a pituitary tumor. This drug is not commonly prescribed by veterinarians for Cushing’s disease since this drug also causes many liver issues when taken for a long time.
- Selegiline: This is used to treat Cushing’s disease if it is caused by a pituitary tumor. This medication also helps with cognitive dysfunction.
In very rare cases, there are tumors that are found growing on your dog’s adrenal gland. If this is the case, the tumors can be surgically removed. Your vet can discuss the different pros and cons of surgery as well as the medical management of this disease.
Conclusion for “When to Euthanize a Dog with Cushing’s Disease?”
If your dog has Cushing’s disease, make sure to give them their medication as directed by your vet. This will make sure that your dog stays healthy for as long as possible. If your dog starts to show any other health issues and you think that it is time to euthanize your dog with Cushing’s disease, talk to your vet about your pet’s quality of life.
Other articles you might like:
- Should I Euthanize a Paralyzed Dog?
- When to Euthanize a Dog with Hemangiosarcoma?
- Signs Your Dog with Diabetes is Dying
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the final stages of Cushing’s disease in dogs?
If your dog is not diagnosed with Cushing’s disease, they may reach the final stages of the disease. The final stages of Cushing’s disease includes:
- Severe lethargy
- Increased urination
- Increased thirst
- Hair loss
- Bloat appearance
Does Cushing’s disease cause blindness in dogs?
No, Cushing’s disease typically does not cause blindness in dogs. Typically, your dog will have Sudden Acquired Retinal Degeneration Syndrome (SARDS) if they go blind. The symptoms of SARDS are very similar to those of Cushing’s disease which can include increased thirst and urination, increased appetite, excessive panting, and lethargy.
Still want to learn more? Check out this video on Cushing’s disease in dogs!