If your dog is gaining weight, has thin skin, and developing a potbelly then you may need to schedule an appointment to rule out Cushing’s disease. There are many symptoms but these are red flags and you may see them develop over time. If your dog is diagnosed with this disease then you may be researching the best food for Cushing’s disease.
It’s important to know that dogs with Cushing’s may only have a few of the symptoms we talk about in this article and you’ll see the typical signs on their lab work. Your vet will work with you on how to treat this disease and the best diet.
We want to help you navigate through all the medical jargon, dog foods for Cushing’s disease, and confusion you’ll find online about Cushing’s disease.
What is Cushing’s disease in dogs?
Cushing’s disease (a.k.a. Hyperadrenocorticism) occurs when there is too much adrenal release of the hormone cortisol. There are many types of Cushing’s disease yet two are the most common.
Typical Cushing’s disease can be pituitary-dependent or adrenal-dependent. The form most dogs are diagnosed with is the pituitary-dependent form.
Your vet will rule out adrenal tumors to determine that your dog does indeed have Cushing’s disease. Always ask for copies of your dog’s bloodwork and consider working with an integrative vet.
Certain breeds are at a higher risk of developing Cushing’s disease. Poodle, Dachshund, Boston Terrier, Boxer, and Beagle are some breeds to watch.
Common symptoms of Cushing’s disease
These symptoms are seen commonly in dogs with Cushing’s disease.
- Increased thirst and increased urination
- Excessive appetite
- Panting and restlessness
- Weight gain
- Development of a potbelly
- Thinning skin or loss of fur
- Heat intolerance
An integrative vet will likely recommend melatonin as it helps reduce estrogen and cortisol levels in your dog’s bloodstream. Gary Richter, DVM and author of ‘The Ultimate Pet Health Guide’ also recommends:
- Ginkgo: This herb reduces cortisol levels in the blood and may benefit dogs with Cushing’s disease.
- Traditional Chinese medicine: Acupuncture and herbs will help with signs like panting and restlessness.
The overarching therapy for Cushing’s disease is to decrease the amount of cortisol in the system. The American Kennel Club veterinarians treat most dogs with pituitary-based Cushing’s Disease with medication.
“Mitotane (Lysodren) and trilostane (Vetoryl) are oral medications that selectively destroy part of the adrenal cortex so that although the pituitary gland tumor continues to release ACTH, cortisol levels remain normal. Careful monitoring is required to ensure that the drugs don’t destroy all of the cortex and that the cortisol stays at a defined level.”
Adrenal-based Cushing’s Disease, the rare form of the disease, is more concerning and best treated with surgery.
Major dietary changes
A veterinary expert with Love To Know recommends a diet with ratios of fat, protein, and carbohydrates for dogs with Cushing’s disease.
Some dietary changes can help reduce your dog’s Cushing’s symptoms. They include:
- Foods high in protein
- Foods low in fat, fiber, carbs, and calcium
- Foods with low purine levels (avoid organ meats)
- Foods rich in lignans (including whole grains, nuts and seeds, legumes, fruits, and vegetables)
Pet owners should work with their vet on diet changes and any nutrition plans.
Commercial diets for dogs with Cushing’s disease
Always read dog food labels but also the guide above should help with the ingredients. Prescription diets like Royal Canin Gastrointestinal Low Fat, or Hills Prescription Diet Metabolic, to manage Cushing’s disease are a great place to start.
Nutrition, medication & supplements for Cushing’s
All treatments for Cushing’s disease in dogs should be tailored to the individual. This is just a starting point according to Dr. Richter and a combination of diet, medication, and alternative therapies should help your dog live a long life.
- Gingko and Traditional Chinese Medicine as discussed above
- A fresh, whole-food diet and dietary changes
- Mitotane or trilostane per your vet (note the side effect we mentioned earlier)
Prevention is key when you’re treating this disease. Reducing the cortisol level in your pets is where you should start. You should consider adrenal support substances like herbs and a low-stress type of diet that is moisture-rich. Consider our tips on the best food for your dog with Cushing’s disease and work with your vet. Your dog also needs exercise and a lower stress lifestyle.