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 thankfully we spent 1.5 more wonderful years together after her diagnosis.
I did not see the signs she was sending letting me know it was time – or maybe I did and just chose to ignore them.
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 knew she was going downhill fast – I did not hear her signals that it was time. 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 knew her quality of life was definitely declining as well – but my heart would not let me listen.
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! Below are what I have learned about Cushing’s disease for dogs and my thoughts on when it is time to put them down to prevent suffering.
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 in dogs 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!
What is Cushing’s Disease In Dogs?
Any time you hear a vet or other dog expert using the words hypercortisolism or hyperadrenocorticism, don’t be scared. These are just the scientific names for Cushing’s disease in dogs.
It is caused by the overproduction or excessive amounts of a hormone known as cortisol. The cortisol level plays a vital role in a dog’s body. Some of these include fighting infections, maintaining a healthy weight, and dealing with high levels of stress.
When To Euthanize A Dog With Cushing’s Disease
Some of the signs that it may be time to euthanize a dog with Cushing’s disease include loss of appetite, severe muscle loss, increased lethargy, excessive drinking, increased urination or is showing a general disinterest in life and things they once loved.
Knowing when to put down a dog with Cushing’s disease is not easy – your heart says one thing – but your head will say another. Listen to your head — if you know your dog is no longer loving life – it is time.
I waited too long and my girl passed at home after having a seizure. It was horrible, and I knew she was ready weeks earlier but the thought of losing her was too much.
It is my biggest regret.
Symptoms of Cushing’s Disease In Dogs
Below are some of the signs you should look for that may be a sign that they have Cushing’s. Early diagnose is key to helping them live longer – so it is important to get your dog looked at if these symptoms begin to show and become more consistent. I wish I had taken Riley earlier when I noticed her peeing more than normal!
Some symptoms will appear early on in the disease – others will start to show in the later stages.
- A dog eating or drinking more fluids than usual
- Excessive urination
- Thinning of the skin followed by very slow growth
- Regular or chronic skin infections
- Excessive panting and weariness
- Repeat urinary tract infections
- Muscle loss
- Tiredness and lethargy
- Hair loss
- Pot bellied appearance or enlarged abdomen
Whenever you notice any of these symptoms of Cushing’s 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. If you are wondering what are the final stages of Cushing’s disease may be – it really depends on the dog. All of the above are symptoms – with Riley I noticed the last few days she just did not want to move and became super clingy with me which was not normal for her.
Diagnosing & Treating A Dog With Cushing’s Disease
A visit to your veterinarian should be the first thing you do if you even think your dog may have Cushing’s disease.
While there is no one test that will be able to give a proper diagnosis, the vet will use a physical exam and some blood and urine tests to properly diagnose whether Cushing’s is present. Tests that are commonly used include:
- ACTH stimulations
- Urine cortisol
- Low dose dexamethasone suppression
- Blood tests
You should know that once the vet diagnoses the pet with the disease, there is no permanent cure.
These tests will help the veterinarian determine whether Cushing’s is present and what type they may have. Typically there are 2 kinds of Cushing’s – pituitary dependent and adrenal dependent.
Adrenal Dependent Cushing’s
Adrenal dependent Cushing’s usually signifies there is a tumor on the adrenal gland. If your dog has an adrenal tumor growing on the adrenal glands, your vet may suggest abdominal surgery to remove it.
Adrenal tumors as a cause of Cushing’s is rare and affects only about 10% of the dogs treated for the disease.
Pituitary Dependent Cushing’s
The most common type of Cushing’s arises from a growth in the pituitary gland part of the brain and is commonly called pituitary dependent Cushing’s disease.
It has been estimated that as many as 90% of dogs with Cushing’s disease have a pituitary gland tumor. With early intervention and proper treatment, pituitary dependent Cushing’s disease can have a good prognosis with years of life left for your best friend.
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 adrenal 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.
There are also many who swear a change in diet helped their dogs with Cushing’s. When I did my research I found some had tested out fresh dog foods as an option and said their was a difference in the energy level of their dog and some swear it prolonged their lives. I tried to find research on this but was unable to come up with anything concrete.
It is recommended to feed your dog a higher protein diet as well as foods that are low in fiber and fat which can help reduce your dog’s symptoms. I personally did not do any of this, not because I did not love my dog, but she always had major issues when we changed her diet – and at 14 – and already passed her expected life expectancy I did not want her to have to deal with the discomfort of a new diet.
Had she been younger I probably would have introduced some fresh food in conjunction with the kibble to try and minimize symptoms.
Is My Dog In Pain If They Have Cushing’s?
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.
Are Certain Dog Breeds Prone To Cushing’s?
There are some breeds that are more prone to Cushing’s disease than others.
- Staffordshire terriers (which is what my Riley was)
- Boston terriers
- Yorkshire terriers
- Poodles, especially miniature poodles
No doubt, this is one of the hardest things you and your canine companion 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…….