Battling Cushing's Disease in Dogs

Hi, My name is Cookie Doe.

In July, I'll turn fifteen years old.
In July, I'll turn fifteen years old. | Source

Stray Dogs

It was just after Thanksgiving on year when our neighbor called to see if we needed another dog. "I found two of them living in the abandoned house next door," the neighbor told us. He and his wife take care of a large group of dogs and cats rescued from the roads where we live.

Cookie, who seemed to be about a year old, was malnourished to the extent that her whiskers no longer grew and her front legs were bowed. Our three dogs, each one a former stray, accepted her with welcoming paws.

Rescued from a Street Gang

Cookie was malnourished, had no whiskers and a variety of puppy parasites.
Cookie was malnourished, had no whiskers and a variety of puppy parasites. | Source

Skin Conditions and Allergies

Throughout her life, Cookie has suffered chronic skin conditions. Different veterinarians diagnosed them differently, sometimes treating them as allergies, other times with antibiotics. Whatever the doctor has called the outbreaks, they continue to cause intense itching, chewing and licking to the point where bleeding sores developed on her body.

We bought the recommended expensive, canine allergy shampoo which was impractical during the cold winter, it only provided temporary relief. When her coat developed greasy looking areas of baldness seemingly overnight, the vet told us she had Microsporum gypseum, a form of contagious ringworm that can be transmitted to humans.

The Treat Zone

Buddy, Dolly and Cookie wait patiently for their turn.
Buddy, Dolly and Cookie wait patiently for their turn. | Source

The three most common fungal species that may cause ringworm in dogs are Microsporum canis, Microsporum gypseum and Trichophyton mentagrophytes. These three species of ringworm are zoonotic, meaning they can also infect humans.

— VCA Animal Hospitals

Why Vets Have Difficulty Diagnosing Skin Conditions

Over the years, our vets have treated Cookie's skin conditions, some of which are among the first signs of Cushing's Disease.

According to T. J. Dunn, DVM, on MyPetMD, veterinarians have a difficult time diagnosing skin conditions in dogs because there are a hundred-sixty (160) different types of skin disorders. The key to getting past the "Let's try these medications for a while" type of approach requires a substantial financial commitment and extensive testing to determine the root cause.

When itchy skin or pruritis results in excessive scratching, chewing and licking in dogs, finding out the exact reason may be hard to do. Hot spots are identified where one particular area of intense itching occurs. Pets often continually rub their faces on the carpet or other surfaces.

Finding out the exact cause of this requires a microscopic examination of the skin obtained by scraping an area with a razor blade to collect a specimen, then, sending it off for a variety of tests. Allergy testing may also be necessary to determine if the pet is allergic to certain substances, whether it's food related or environmental issues, like grass or pollen.

Even with extensive testing and blood work, removing some of these factors may be hard to do, for example, if the animal has grass allergies.

Cureable Skin Disorders
Possible Causes
Treatment
Bacterial Dermatitis
Poor quality diet, Allergies, Food Sensitivities
Cultures, Antibiotics
Malassenzia (Yeast)
Overactive or underactive immune system
Corticosteroids, Antihistamines
Fungal (ie. Ringworm)
Parasites, Fleas, Mites
Topical creams, Antibiotics
Skin infections and dermatitis in Dogs

Traditional Medications for Cushing's in Dogs

Treating Skin Conditions

The treatment that worked best to combat her intense scratching and licking was corticosteroid injections every three to four months. The problem with this treatment is it may add to the onset of Cushing's Disease, which involves an overproduction of steroids in the body.

Bald patches in the fur, excessive licking, scratching and chewing are also symptoms of the disease, beyond a specific skin infection, fungus or parasite infestation. This is what may complicate the diagnoses.

There are three different types of this illness each caused by different things. To determine the specific type of tumor and treatment, CBC blood work and bi-weekly testing of the ACTH levels of the blood are needed. Sonograms of the abdomen and kidneys would also be necessary. This testing can become extremely expensive.

As Cookie's blood indicators rose over the years, our veterinarian suspected that she may have developed an adrenal dysfunction such as Cushing's. Before starting a specific treatment, he suggested we monitor her water intake taking note of how much she drank every day. At her advanced age, we didn't want to put her through either high-risk brain surgery or the chemotherapy type drugs that would have been prescribed should her tests prove positive for the disease.

What is Cushing's Disease? How is it Treated?

Homeopathic Solutions

To combat Cushing's Disease in our dog, we first read online testimonials from a selection of five hundred stories from people whose dogs suffer these same symptoms: excessive thirst and hunger, unexplained anxiety, hair loss, frequency of urination, accidents in the house where none had happened in the past and severe itching and scratching.

After reading about how dogs responded to the natural medicine as opposed to traditional medicine including chemotherapy type drugs, we decided it was worth a try. Within a couple of weeks we noticed significant improvement in Cookie's behavior. She had reached the point of needing to go outside several times an hour. After beginning treatment, she was able to wait a couple of hours between visits. After finishing two bottles, each one lasts about a month, she's able to sleep through the night most of the time. She's on her third bottle now.

Her symptoms have not completely gone, nor is this a cure for the disease. There is no guaranteed cure even with high risk surgery to remove the benign or malignant tumor on either the pituitary gland or the adrenal glands. The side effects of standard prescribed medications are reportedly difficult on the animal. The ACTH levels in the blood require continual monitoring (every two weeks) which can get very expensive as well as invasive.

We weren't sure the product was working until we ran out for a few days and within that time frame, her skin took on a reddish appearance, her fur started to fall out in spots and her thirst became even more excessive than before. Her continual panting, listlessness and excessive appetite returned and her discomfort was obvious. When we resumed treatment, all these indications reduced in intensity, including the urination frequency.

Still the Queen of Barkness
Still the Queen of Barkness | Source

The product, Adrenal Harmony Gold, is manufactured by Pet Wellbeing company and is given in the dog's food twice daily as liquid drops. It's made from a variety of herbal ingredients including Ashwaganda root, Holy basil leaf, fresh Tumeric rhizome and other herbs and roots including Milk Thistle. She seems to enjoy the taste and licks the drops left in her bowl after eating her kibble.

We told our veterinarian and he looked for more information for another dog with the same symptoms. His homeopathic vet friends told him the remedy actually does provide benefits. Unfortunately, they said the improvement drops off after about a year of use.

At nearly fifteen years old, we can only hope for more time with our beloved Cookie who now requires continuous company to avoid anxiety attacks and a bit of support to steady her on her walks.

Cushing's Syndrome in Humans

© 2015 Peg Cole

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39 comments

heidithorne profile image

heidithorne 19 months ago from Chicago Area

We've had a couple of goldens who suffered from what they thought could be Cushings. Both ended up eventually being diagnosed with cancers. Whether there's a connection is unclear. Skin and bladder conditions are extremely tough to diagnose in dogs since it could be Cushings, thyroid issues and so much more. Best course of action is to always be monitoring changes in their habits, behaviors and health. Thanks for raising awareness! Voted up, useful, interesting and sharing!


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 19 months ago from Dallas, Texas Author

Sorry to hear about your golden retrievers and their diagnoses. They are such wonderful dogs. My BFF in Florida has raised several over the years. I read one report that said they're prone to developing Cushing's.

Yes, one vet said to "Try this thyroid medication for 30 days" but then we'd have to run more blood work after that...(at $200 bucks a pop) or it could be bla bla bla. At this stage, it could be a number of things combined.


drbj profile image

drbj 19 months ago from south Florida

I commend you, Peg, on this more than thorough dissertation. I learned much more than I expected after reading your excellent research. Your three beautiful pets are fortunate to have you as their mommy.

Voted up, of course.


mckbirdbks profile image

mckbirdbks 19 months ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

Hello Peg - So glad that Cookie choose you. It sounds like you have done a lot of homework and the research has provided some relief and some additional quality time for your loved one.


JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 19 months ago from Deep South, USA

Peg - I'm so sorry about Cookie's health travails and that she's been diagnosed with canine Cushing's disease. I hope she will respond to the holistic medication, as the traditional meds are similar to chemo and have side effects--not to mention being frightfully expensive. And my dog's primary care vet says they do not appear to prolong the dog's lifespan. Why put your beloved dog through misery for no good purpose?

Best of luck....Jaye


Barbara Kay profile image

Barbara Kay 19 months ago from USA

Our dog is at risk for it since he has SARDS. We have been advised to have him tested soon. The costs doesn't sound like any fun though.


DJ Anderson 19 months ago

Peg, God bless you and your precious dogs. It is so kind that you took in strays and gave them a wonderful home and plenty of love.

Many years ago, our dog was diagnosed with Cushing's. He drank massive amounts of water, but never gained weight. Additionally, he did not lose any fur. He lived to be 18 years old, so I was doing something right! Those middle of the night bathroom breaks were a killer for me

and stairs at 3:00 AM.

You have given some super information for people who are looking to fine ways to help with their beloved pets. We must always be extra vigilant for our furry little kids, as they cannot tell us what hurts.

Great hub! Voted up, interesting and useful.

DJ.


bravewarrior profile image

bravewarrior 19 months ago from Central Florida

Poor baby. Thankfully, Cookie has a great mom who will do anything to ease the discomfort. I'm glad you found a homeopathic remedy. I'm sure it's much gentler on Cookie, not to mention your wallet.


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 19 months ago from Dallas, Texas Author

Hello Drbj, Thank you so much for the kind remarks and thoughtful response to this article. We've seen a lot of veterinary action over the past two dozen years out here in the country with loads of strays making their way to us. I could probably write a book on all the different ones that have entered our lives. There have been Great Danes, Golden Retrievers, Chows, Dalmatians, Labradors (a family of six) and many others who have been dumped nearby along with a host of cats. The ones we're able to keep are more than animals to us. They're family members.

Your comment was truly appreciated and it's great to see you here. You've been missed.


Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 19 months ago from Shelton

what a wonderful, informative hub.. sad though when our pets fall to such diseases.. my dog is a member of my family and I too do whatever it takes to help the little guy.. this is hub of the week type article :)


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 19 months ago from Dallas, Texas Author

Hi Mckbirdbks, We're always glad when one chooses to join our family. This little girl had power struggles with Dolly for a while, each wanting to be the Alpha dog. Dolly set her straight and things settled down but we had monitor who came in the house first or turmoil happened. We're taking one day at a time these days and try to be grateful for every moment. Thank you for taking time to drop by.


Dana Tate profile image

Dana Tate 19 months ago from LOS ANGELES

From. One. Pet parent to another. I am so glad cookie. has wonderful parents who care so much about he welfare. This. was very informative. And a must read for all pet parents


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 19 months ago from Dallas, Texas Author

Hello Jaye, That's exactly what I found in reading testimonials about the product. Many pet owners said the reactions to traditional medicine were difficult on the pet and that they gave little relief for the symptoms. I wouldn't want to make life even more difficult for my furry friend.

Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and for stopping in to read this.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 19 months ago from The Caribbean

First, only a compassionate heart would be so devoted to the health and comfort of a pet. I commend you! Thanks for sharing the facts on diagnosis and treatment which will be very helpful to other dog owners. Voted Up!


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 19 months ago from Dallas, Texas Author

Oh, Barbara. So sorry to learn about your dog's condition. I had to look it up and read a bit to know the connection to Cushing's. That must be really hard on them, sudden visual impairment. Sad news. All the best to you.


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 19 months ago from Dallas, Texas Author

Wow, DJ, eighteen years is a long time for a dog. Our oldest one lived to be sixteen. I still miss her. Thanks so much for the kind and thoughtful comment. Sorry your dog had this disease. Cookie hasn't gained weight as much as she's developed a round belly and insatiable thirst. She stopped attempting the stairs about two years back so we moved into the downstairs bedroom. Those midnight (and later) runs are tiring for sure.

Right now she's whining for more water and I just gave her a long drink. Of course, it is her dinner time and she's always happy to remind me of that.

Nice of you to drop in. It's always great to see you here.


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 19 months ago from Dallas, Texas Author

Hi Shauna, Yes, thankfully, the homeopathic remedy is much more affordable and seems to be helping her cope. Thanks so much for your sweet thoughts and visit.


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 19 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

This is an excellent and very useful hub, Peg. I'm sorry about Cookie's condition but glad that the natural medicine is helping her. I hope it continues to do so for a long time to come.


FlourishAnyway profile image

FlourishAnyway 19 months ago from USA

So sorry about Cookie's medical condition but I'm glad that she has you as her watchful and loving caretaker. This was an insightful hub. Pets can have so many allergies and sensitivities that we've previously been unaware of. Thanks for raising awareness.


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 19 months ago from Dallas, Texas Author

Frank, your comment made me smile all day long. Thanks so much and for sharing your love of pets (family).


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 19 months ago from Dallas, Texas Author

Dana, it's all part of the pet package when we adopt them for life. Glad to know you're a tenderhearted pet lover. Thank you for dropping by.


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 19 months ago from Dallas, Texas Author

MsDora, thank you so much for the kind words and the votes. It's always nice to see you here.


Genna East profile image

Genna East 19 months ago from Massachusetts, USA

Cookie Doe is such an adorable name, Peg. (The happy trio of former strays pictured above are so lucky to have found you.) I learned much from this article; for example, there are over 160 kinds of skin disorders. It is a blessing that through your determination, exhaustive research and love, sweet Cookie has benefited from a homeopathic solution. Your compassion is an inspiration to us all. Sending hugs to you, Cookie, and the rest of the family. :-)


peachpurple profile image

peachpurple 19 months ago from Home Sweet Home

cookie looks quite old now, fifteen years old is a grand age, my cat is 10, also pretty old but she had a good appetite and still fights with other cats


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 19 months ago from Dallas, Texas Author

Hi Alicia, Thank you for the kind words and well wishes for Cookie. She's been with us through a lot of things. I really appreciate your visit and thoughtful comment.


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 19 months ago from Dallas, Texas Author

Hello Flourish, it is kind of you to care about Cookie. I was also surprised to discover so many skin disorders that dogs may suffer. It's no wonder that these are misdiagnosed so often. Thanks so much for stopping in.


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 19 months ago from Dallas, Texas Author

Hi Genna, Cookie sends hugs back. She is such a gem of a dog and a real trooper when it comes right down to it. I remember her nursing skills when our Dolly grew old and needed encouragement to keep on going. Cookie was right there for her. She also watched over our puppy, Tony, after he had abdominal surgery. They are really the compassionate ones. Thanks for the warm message and thoughtful comment.


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 18 months ago from Dallas, Texas Author

Hello Peachpurple, Cookie is quite old for a dog. If the seven year rule is right, that would make her 105 years old. She's still kicking and hanging in there. Your cat may have many years and lives left. My sister's cat lived to be 22.


mary615 profile image

mary615 18 months ago from Florida

I have spent a fortune at the Vet's with my dog, Baby! She has always been an itchy dog. I did some research and found that some dogs are sensitive to gluten. I now feed her homemade food (she loves sweet potatoes).

You have such a loving heart to have rescued your dogs! I hope Cookie lives much longer. You have added to her life by giving her such wonderful care and love.

Voted UP, etc.


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 18 months ago from Dallas, Texas Author

Hi Mary615, I can relate to the expense part of vet care. Our last visit to the vet with blood work was over six hundred dollars. The ongoing treatment for Cushing's requires continual monitoring of the blood along with xrays etc.. We're glad to have found a natural product that is helping her cope without the chemo type drugs. I'm interested to know if your Baby's skin condition is better with home made food. We switched to the No Grain type of kibble and things got better for a while.

Glad you dropped by today and thanks for your kind words.


mary615 profile image

mary615 18 months ago from Florida

Yes, Baby is definitely better with my homemade food. When I wrote the Hub about her sensitivity to gluten, I was feeding her chicken, but now I cook Pinto Beans and sweet potatoes. I used the no-grain kibble for a while and she got temporary relief, then became worse.


aviannovice profile image

aviannovice 18 months ago from Stillwater, OK

Glad to know that dear Cookie is doing much better with the treatment. There are a number of things that animals become susceptible to if they haven't been raised well, due to lack of vitamins and minerals. All we can do is try.


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 18 months ago from Dallas, Texas Author

Hi Deb, We worried right from the start not knowing what kind of puppy care she received, if any. She'd been on her own for a while and it's a wonder she has made it to nearly fifteen. Thank you for coming by and for your kind thoughts.


Shyron E Shenko profile image

Shyron E Shenko 17 months ago

Wow! Peg, this is the first I have heard about dogs getting cushing's. I know what it is because my cousin has cushings, the hell she went through was worse than the diagnosis.

I hope Cookie is comfortable and happy.

Thank you for writing this.

Blessings and hugs


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 17 months ago from Dallas, Texas Author

Hi Shyron, Sorry to hear that your friend has this disease. We also felt that the remedy was worse than the condition. It involves a chemo type drug that really causes a lot of issues for them. Hope your friend's health improves.

It's June 2015. Cookie is declining and has reached a critical level, unable to walk or get up on her own at this point. It's getting really tough to see her like this.

Thanks for the blessings and the hugs are certainly welcomed.


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 15 months ago from Southern Oklahoma

I'm so sorry to hear about Cookie's ailment. I know you will do what ever it takes to help her.


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 15 months ago from Dallas, Texas Author

Thank you, Sheila.


norlawrence profile image

norlawrence 4 months ago from California

Very good article. A lot of good information. There are so many homeless dogs that need our help.


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 4 months ago from Dallas, Texas Author

Thanks, Norlawrence. I appreciate your visit.

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