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When To Put Down A Dog With Cushing’s Disease

Healthy & Happy 06.16.2020
By Jill Caren
cushings disease
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My Smily Riley. She was diagnosed with Cushing’s disease when she was 13 years old. Putting her down was not an option even though she was pretty far along in the disease, and we spent 1.5 more wonderful years together after her diagnosis. Although challenging at times, I would not have changed a thing.

How Do You Know When To Put Down A Dog With Cushing’s Disease?

My Personal Experience

Honestly, I did not see the signs in my own experience with Riley. One day I got up to go to the bathroom – she followed behind me and collapsed in the kitchen. She convulsed, she urinated – and began frothing at the mouth.

I was numb and felt horrible that I let her go this way. I knew it was the end – and my last minutes with her were heartbreaking, not only for me but for her sister Ginger who saw it all.

While I new she was going downhill fast – I did not hear her signals that it was time. I was not ready – but looking back I know she was. She was never a clingy dog but those last few weeks she was EXTRA clingy – like she was trying to get my attention to tell me something.

I wish I had listened so she could go with dignity and under a more controlled environment. RIP Riley and I am sorry I did not listen better girl!

Other Thoughts

We all have people that we love so dearly that we can’t help ourselves when they are not around and it is the same with dogs. If you have a dog that you love so much you just naturally always want them around. You cannot imagine going a day without them and nor do you want to!

If you have an amazing bond with your pet – you will be able to tell when his mood, behavior or physical characteristics change. When these changes happen it may be a sign that they are ready – whether you are or not.

Early treatment of Cushing’s disease may also increase the time you have with your pet so be sure to get those annual exams and be aware of changes that can be signs of the disease!

When to put down a dog with Cushing’s disease is going to be dependent on the dog! If they are giving you signs that they are ready – then read those signs! There is no “right or wrong” time – but if you see your dog having a quality of life that is no fulfilling then it may be time to start thinking about this option.

What is Cushing’s Disease?

Any time you hear a vet or other dog expert using the words hypercortisolism or hyperadrenocorticism, don’t be scared. These are the scientific names for Cushing’s disease. The names are closely related to the cause of the disease.

It is caused by the overproduction of a hormone known as cortisol. When produced in the right amount, the hormone plays a vital role in the dog’s body. Some of these include fighting infections, maintaining a healthy weight, and dealing with high levels of stress. 

As you can already see, a dog’s body operates just like that of a human. When we overproduce various hormones, we also suffer. The suffering is manifested by various signs. Below are symptoms that signify that your dog may be suffering from Cushing’s.

  • A dog eating or drinking more fluids than usual.
  • Too much peeing.
  • Thinning of the skin followed by very slow growth.
  • Regular skin infections.
  • Too much panting and weariness.

Whenever you notice any of these symptoms of Cushings disease in your pet, notify the vet immediately. You may also pay a visit to the vet for a checkup if you notice something unusual with your dog.

The Two Types of Cushing’s Disease

The most common type of Cushing’s arises from a growth in the pituitary part of the brain. Pituitary Cushing’s affects 80% to 90% of the dogs in the world. Hence, whenever you suspect that your dog that of your neighbor has the disease, it will most likely be as a result of a tumor in the brain.

The second type of Cushing’s is known as adrenal. It occurs when a tumor grows in the adrenal glands that are located very close to the kidneys. Adrenal Cushing’s is rare as it affects only about 10% of the dogs that are treated with the illness. Note that the causes of Cushing’s disease are the same whether your pet is diagnosed with adrenal or pituitary.

Normally, you cannot tell whether your dog is suffering from adrenal or pituitary Cushing’s. Only the vet can tell you for sure, and this is after conducting several tests. Therefore, you need to have a personal vet for your dog breed so that in case of illness, he may know the tests to conduct. 

How to Treat Cushing’s Disease

The first step you should do is to visit your vet if you suspect that your pet may have Cushing’s disease. The usual tests that the expert will conduct will be that of the blood and the urine.

These tests help in identifying if your dog has infections in the urinary tract. 

Once the vet conducts these tests and rules out the suspected conditions they may need to carry out more tests. One such test is known as ACTH stimulation.

ACTH is a hormone that stimulates the body to produce cortisol. Therefore, the vet will take blood samples before and after injecting the dog. The comparison of the two samples will determine whether the vet should diagnose the pet with Cushing’s disease.

You should know that once the vet diagnoses the pet with the disease, there is no permanent cure.

It is unfortunate and sad. However, the professional may prescribe medication that may help to manage the illness for as long as it is manageable.

Lysodren is one of the prescriptions that vets administer to pets with the disease. It is common and it has been in the market since the 70s. You may be interested to know what the drug does, and here it is. It destroys the adrenal gland up to a level where it ceases to overproduce cortisol. 

You should be careful when the vet administers this drug as a treatment of Cushings disease. If you pet overdoses from the drug, it may completely wipe out the glands, and this may eventually lead to death. And you definitely don’t want your pet to leave you sooner than you thought. 

The newest treatment is known as trilostane. It is less risky than lysodren but more expensive. Instead of killing the adrenal glands, trilostane inhibits the production of cortisol. However, this does not mean that it does not have side effects. Like any other medication, wrong administration of the drug may cause severe effects including death.

What A Cushing’s Disease Diagnosis Means

It is unfortunate that there is no cure for Cushing’s disease. Although there are medications that may help in managing the disease, you will need to read your dogs cues to know when to put down your beloved pet.

If the dog does seem to be in pain, is having trouble walking or seems generally uncomfortable and nothing seems to be working anymore, it may be time to let go. You may ask the vet if you are not sure whether to make the decision and they may guide you.

How to you know when nothing is working anymore? The dog may be constantly tired. He may not even want to play with you and all he does is to sleep day and night. Also, the dog may be shedding fur too much and none grows back.

When you notice these characteristics, you need to take action. Make the decision as a family on whether and when to let the dog rest instead of keeping him in agonizing pain. We all love, and we will all continue loving our pets. But no matter how much you love and pamper the dog, if he is in a lot of pain, nothing will make sense anymore. Make the decision that will leave no one in pain and you too will be comfortable, eventually.

Is My Dog In Pain If They Have Cushing’s?

When To Put Down A Dog With Cushing’s Disease
Ginger and Riley spooning together

Personally speaking my girl did not seem to have any pain or discomfort from Cushing’s and the vet also stated that he does not see my girl in pain at all. Typically dogs do not experience pain from Cushing’s – so that is a bit of good news!

If you do feel like your dog is in pain – maybe they are whining or uncomfortable there are a few things you can try to reduce your dogs pain or stress.

Final Thoughts

No doubt, this is one of the hardest things you may ever have to deal with. Losing a pet is an emotional experience and knowing if you are putting them down at the right time – well that is even harder.

I regret every day not putting Riley down weeks before she passed. She was different – and I knew it, but I chose not to see it because I did not want to lose her. I was selfish. The way she passed was NOT what I wanted for her – and I am sure you do not want it for your babies either.

If you are dealing with this – my heart and thoughts are with you. Hug your baby tight, make those last days amazing – and let them go with dignity and grace and hugs…….

Jill Caren

Jill Caren Bio Logo

Jill Caren

Jill is the owner and creator of CharityPaws and has been involved in animal rescue for over 12 years as a volunteer and board member for Jersey Animal Welfare Society. You can read all of her articles here.

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