When To Euthanise A Dog With Cushing's Disease? | Cloud 9 Vets

When To Euthanise A Dog With Cushing’s Disease?

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Dog With Cushing's Disease

What is Cushing’s disease? Also known as hyperadrenocorticism this disease is caused by a benign tumour located in the pituitary gland – at the base of your dog’s brain – or more often in the adrenal glands. The hormone secreted by the pituitary gland informs all other glands to produce cortisol – and they do in huge doses.

An excess of cortisol causes all sorts of problems. Cortisol is a steroid hormone. And these steroids have side effects including the development of Cushing’s. See an explanation of the disorder, what happens when Cushing’s in dogs is left untreated, and when to euthanise a dog with Cushing’s disease here…

Cushing’s Disease in Your Dog

Dogs can suffer from three forms of Cushing’s:

Typical Cushing’s Disease

This disorder causes the adrenal glands to produce too much cortisol. The adrenal glands in your dog are located next to the kidneys. And here a variety of hormones are produced by the outer cortex:

  • Cortisol which regulates the immune system and metabolism
  • Sex hormones with the production of oestrogen and progesterone
  • Aldosterone controlling water metabolism and blood pressure

The inner layer produces two hormones called epinephrine and norepinephrine.

Pituitary-Dependant Cushing’s

This is when the pituitary gland overproduces the hormone ACTH. This triggers excessive levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

Atypical Cushing’s Disease

This recently discovered disorder happens when the adrenal cortex produces an excess of steroid hormones resulting in similar signs to typical Cushing’s.

Dog With Cushing's Disease

Signs of Cushing’s Disease

Cushing’s disease symptoms in dogs include:

  • Fur loss
  • Excessive thirst and urination
  • Skin thickening
  • Chronic skin infections
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Increased appetite
  • Muscle loss and weakness
  • Distended abdomen
  • Weight gain and lethargy
  • Irregular metabolic and immune system activity


Dog With Cushing's Disease

The Diagnostic Perspective

Tests performed to diagnose Cushing’s include:

  • Screening tests – urine cortisol/creatinine ratios – and low dose dexamethasone tests
  • Differentiation tests – high dose dexamethasone and ACTH stimulation tests
  • Ultrasound – abdominal identification of adrenal enlargement or tumour


Dog With Cushing's Disease

Get Answers

How long does a dog live with Cushing’s Disease?

The ultimate age for a dog to survive with Cushing’s is approximately three years – with a reported median survival rate of two years.

Dogs with the disease can have a good quality of life if they’re closely monitored by a vet. This means regular check-ups, blood work, and the administration of any required medication.

What treatments are available?

Dogs with mild symptoms will be closely monitored before treatment begins.

Other treatment options include Lysodren which destroys enough of the adrenal gland to reduce the secretion of cortisol when administered very carefully.

Vetoryl shuts off cortisol production at the molecular level instead of randomly killing off adrenal gland cells.

Oral medications such as trilostane and mitotane are given to suppress cortisol production and will be needed for life. As these drugs can have serious potential side-effects your dog will need to be tested frequently. Common side effects include are poor appetite, vomiting, and lack of energy. More serious complications can involve collapse, severe hormone imbalances, destruction of the adrenal glands, and even death.

Surgery may be required to remove an adrenal tumour and vets’ instructions should be followed exactly. You’ll need to watch out for signs of internal bleeding such as pale gums, rapid breathing, and general weakness. There are many potential risks for surgery as it’s extremely complex. And surgical techniques to remove pituitary tumours aren’t widely available.

What happens when Cushing’s is left untreated?

Generally, a dog with untreated Cushing’s can live as long as a treated dog but with side effects. Treatment doesn’t actually change the life span but gives a better quality of life when symptoms are addressed.

Complications may occur in the form of diabetes or a blood clot in the lungs. And hypo adrenal corticism if left untreated can lead to death.

Is my dog in pain with Cushing’s Disease?

With proper diagnosis and ongoing treatment, the symptoms should be controllable. Herbal remedies can help by balancing systems within your dog’s body and addressing the underlying causes of the disease. This soothes the painful symptoms of illness and disease at the same time.

When to put a dog down with Cushing’s Disease?

The most important factors in considering euthanasia are uncontrollable urination and excessive drinking. Dogs with neurological signs from a pituitary tumour have a poor prognosis. Medical therapy for adrenal-dependent Cushing’s has a fair to good prognosis with a survival rate of about 15 months.

If surgery isn’t an option treatment with drugs can prolong life by a few months before your dog’s quality of life becomes unacceptable.

Dog With Cushing's Disease

Get Professional Help and Support

Putting a dog to sleep is never an easy decision. You can get a detailed explanation about dog euthanasia from caring home-visit vets. When you’re ready the vet will come to your home. And administer a sedative to send your dog into a peaceful sleep. Then an anaesthetic agent will cause the heart to slowly stop, calmly and serenely. Any aftercare arrangements can be made with the help of Care Co-ordinators.

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by Cloud 9 Vets on August 29, 2019

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