Is Your Dog Always Hungry and Thirsty? – Canine Cushing Disease Symptoms

Every year around 100,000 dogs are diagnosed with Cushing’s Disease..  That’s a BIG number.  Many people with pets have never even heard of the condition.

This syndrome can be caused by the excessive use of cortisol-type medications.  in addition the condition can be triggered from a natural spike in the body’s production of Cortisol.

In dogs, most cases of elevated Cortisol are caused by a benign tumors.   These tumors can grow near the pituitary or adrenal gland ….resulting in the increase of Cortisol to abnormally high levels.

Irregular adrenal function can go the other way too.  Lowered hormone levels in the adrenals results in Addison’s disease which is a result in lowered cortisol levels and lack or hormones…equally dangerous.

Treatment Methods

Surgery is the one sure cure for Cushing’s disease in dogs… when the cause is from a tumor

Without surgery your dog can life a happy life…especially is you are able to properly management their symptoms.

The pituitary gland, located in the dog’s brain… is the most common place for these tumors   Typically this location rules out surgery….because the cost is outrageous…and is a high health risk to your pet.  Same with adrenal gland surgery,,,,just too dangerous.

Pressure caused by the tumors… over-stimulates the gland… in the end, the result is overproduction of Cortisol. This elevated level of Cortisol….causes the disease and its symptoms.

The most rewarding path for you… as a pet parent… will be to  manage your pet’s symptoms.  You can find success in exploring natural homeopathic treatments….ones that help relieve your dogs discomfort…regulate the cortisol… and assist in alleviating the ill-effects of the condition.

Symptoms of Cushing’s Disease in Dog

The most common symptoms of Cushing’s Disease include:

Excessive water drinking – Excessive thirst cause by (PD) Polydypsia

Excessive urination – Excessive need for urination caused by (PU) Polyuria

Insatiable Appetite – Hormonal imbalance results in no “off switch” for appetite. This also can lead to your dog getting into the trash… or adventures in “counter-surfing”.  I often make my own healthy dog food… because this help offsets some of this nutritional imbalance.

Heavy Panting – This goes beyond the normal panting dogs do… to stay cool or relieve stress. The non-stop painting can be quite extreme and seemingly never-ending.  Almost like doggy hot-flashes.

Big Belly – Over abundance of Cortisol weakens muscles.  It also creates more fat on your dogs internal cavity. That what leads to a protruding belly in dogs with the disease.

Thin Coat and Skin Problems – This disease may leave your dog with a dull or dry coat, bald spots, or hair loss.  The syndrome also affects your pets skin… causing them to bruise easily and heal slower.  It’s common for them to develop  wrinkles and folds in their skin…and to develop muscle atrophy .

Which dogs are at risk?

Cushing’s disease is most commonly found in middle- aged dogs aged 6 years and olderSpecific dogs breeds that appear to be more at risk:

  • Poodles
  • Dachshunds
  • Terriers
  • Australian Shepherd
  • Maltese
  • Beagles
  • German Shepherd
  • Boxers
  • Labrador Retriever
  • Cocker Spaniel

Tumors near the adrenal and pituitary glands… are the leading cause to trigger Cushing’s Disease. If your dog suffers from this illness and is on Cortisone… that drug may be the reason.

You may wish to consult a holistic veterinarian to discuss other treatments.


Treatment options other than surgery.

Cushing’s disease is an assault on your dogs immune system.  You will need to monitor your pets health.   It’s time to start thinking about all the remedies available because you’ll want to help relieve their discomfort and symptoms.

Other than surgery….you can opt for prescription medication or other all- natural holistic treatment methods.

Most vets will suggest some form of prescription medicine.  Keep in mind, drugs often come with some pretty bad side-effects.  Many of these side-effect are unknown and can show up after long-term use.

Treatment Drugs – These are toxic chemicals

These chemical drugs have been shown to be an effective non-surgical treatments for dogs. But keep in mind that they are synthetic toxic drugs.

Your veterinarian may Mitotane. This oral medication is one of the most commonly prescribed treatments.  Its works by destroying adrenal gland cells which produce cortisol.

Trilostane…is an enzyme inhibitor…. acting as a blocker of cortisol in the adrenal gland. It’s been noted by some vets… that long-term use of corticosteroid drugs can cause a rebound effect… with cortisol production increasing in the adrenal gland.

Alternative treatments – Holistic Approach

Holistic medicine conjures up a “hocus-pocus” idea for some people. This philosophical approach is pretty straight-forward.  Simply holistic medicine centers on treating the whole body. 

Often, conventional medicine treat the symptoms and not the problem.

Our internal systems are inter-connected.  When our dog has a medical issue…there can be multiple things going on in our body.

A holistic treatment will address the hormone imbalance with natural substances.  The goal is lower the cortisol level and return balance to your dogs system

In holistic veterinarian care... the focus is on minimal invasiveness and empathy for the animalHolistic veterinarian care has become more mainstream and acceptable…so don’t be afraid to try these methods.

Homeopathy –  Helping your dog heal himself

Homeopathy is a medical system…. based on the belief that the body can cure itself.

Homeopaths use tiny amounts of natural substances... such as herbs, plants, and minerals to stimulate a natural healing process.

 Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone in dogs (and people)….and is widely used for treating symptoms of Cushing’s in dogs.  Read more about melatonin for your dog here.

Melatonin for dogs now comes in a beefy chew …. which makes it easier to administer.  Melatonin is now a common all-natural treatment for numerous dog conditions… when you have a desire to stay away from prescription drug treatments.

If you decide to take an alternative approach to conventional medicine… you can explore holistic forms of treatment. All natural treatments are herbal based… and target the adrenal glands and their functions. The goals is to normalize their hormone production… because this will help re-establish normal balance.

It’s a priority to feed you dog a well-balanced diet to insure they are getting all the nutrients they need.  Homeopathic treatments can be effective and some beneficial herbs include…Turmeric, kelp, nettle, burdock, rose hips, ….clover, milk thistle, wormwood… and apple cider vinegar (organic with “mother”).

Adrenal Glands and Cushing’s treatment

Adrenal glands are vital players in the overall health of your pet. Located on top of each kidney… these glands regulate many of your dogs physiological systems.

The pituitary and hypothalamus glands fire off messages to the adrenals…. to secrete specific amounts of needed hormones to maintain equilibrium in your dog.

Holistic adrenal gland treatments are a therapeutic option that support the adrenals functions… because they help the body produce normal healthy levels of cortisol.

Healthy adrenal functions are key to responding to stress and inflammation. In addition, they also are major factors in regulating water and electrolyte levels.

Adrenals also produce hormones responsible for regulating blood sugar levels… which trigger appetite.

If your pet is already on other medications… its advisable to consult your veterinarian… before adding herbal products to a daily regimen.  You want to avoid any possible side effects from combining treatments.

Is Cushing’s Disease fatal?

Pet’s diagnosed with Cushing disease  usually won’t die from the syndrome.

That’s good news!

Untreated dogs with Cushing’s live just as long as treated dogs. Your dog will suffer more side effects if left untreated though.

If you notice that your pooch shows signs of Cushing’s…. have your vet test for the disease.  Get the info so you can make an educated decision on what to do next.

Blood work helps you pinpoint a hormone imbalance in your dog. This will be a great baseline for you to manage the treatment options.

Which hormones are elevated?…more importantly….what options does your vet suggest?

Finally, do they offer natural “alternative” treatment methods?

If you want more information on an integrative medicine approach….one that uses conventional and alternative medicine….for a holistic approach… you can find out more with the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association.

They can help you find a Holistic Veterinarian near you.

If I can answer any questions or be a resource….please leave a note in the comment section below.  Good luck!

15 Comments on “Is Your Dog Always Hungry and Thirsty? – Canine Cushing Disease Symptoms”

  1. Hi, I really like this article it’s very informative. It seems like I just came across it at the right time too as we have actually been talking about one of the breeds you mentioned (German Shepherd). This is great info to have and it helps to know what symptoms to look out for and also the more natural methods you can try to use to manage the symptoms. Many thanks for the info again.

    1. Thank you very much for spending time reading this Cushing’s article. Information is one of our greatest assets. We don’t always want to know “everything” that can go wrong or happen in life (or we would never do anything…ha!); but this condition was so surprising that I had to share my experience. Best of luck!

    1. I appreciate you checking in on the site. Thank you for spending time reading up on Cushing’s. It’s my hope that no one reading this article will have to deal with this condition with their pet, but unfortunately it’s the 3rd most common disease in dogs. Thanks again for visiting!

  2. Thanks for all the info. I was not aware but will keep an eye on my 13 year old Bishon Fresay(sp?)He has some warts but I don’t especially see the other symptoms. He visits the Vet regularly and is very active.

    Blessings to you for the article.

    1. So happy to hear your little Bishon Frise is so healthy. Those are some of the cutest dogs on the planet- they truly look like little “toy dogs”. Keeping him active like you do is always a great way to add years to their lives. This breed is a pretty hardy breed but some suffer from sensitive skin so (as you know) consistent grooming and flea control really helps these guys. Keep up the great work and thanks for checking in!

  3. Goodness Tim, a helpful post for those dealing with this disease. My son and I are in the research phase of trying to decide what type of dog for us – we may return to dog ownership next year. Currently, we’re adjusting to life with 2 5-month-old kittens!

    Your website is contributing to our research – thank you!

    1. Hi Fleur,
      What a fantastic time it is when you’re looking for a new companion. I’m so happy to hear that you and your son are giving careful thought on deciding which dog is going to be a good fit for your family someday. Definitely lots to consider like schedules, budget, energy level, grooming, and personalities. For now….it sounds like you have your hands full for a while with your two baby furry friends – enjoy!

  4. Very first time of hearing about this disease, because I’m not the doggy type. I will draw the attention of my friends who keep dogs to be on the lookout.

    This post was full of very helpful information and resources and I’ve learned a lot about dogs just reading one single post. I wished they never fell sick at all. Where do all those complicated diseases come from? Poor things. Continue to help them in your own little way by providing useful articles like this.

    Thanks a lot for sharing.

    1. Many of these diseases are cancer or tumor related (abnormal cell growth).   

      Cushing’s is triggered by tumors growing on or need the adrenal or pituitary glands.  The tumors are usually benign.

      Researchers find many cancer/tumor cases are caused by exposure to carcinogens such as environment agents, chemicals, physical agents (i.e. tobacco), and diet.  Around 70-80% of cancer cases are potentially avoidable by reducing exposure to these things.

  5. Wow, what I absolutely loved about your article is that you aren’t just pushing drugs for the dog, you actually take the time and research necessary to provide a complete guide to all the different approaches one could take with their beloved dog.  My girlfriend’s dog has Cushing Disease, and it’s not good, she’s had terrible symptoms.  So the vet gave them something, but whatever it was, she said it isn’t working.  I’m going to show her this article.  She needs to find something, and not pay the vet a big fee for nothing again.

    1. Sorry to hear your friend is dishing out $$$ and not getting results.  That’s sad and frustrating for her I’m sure.  You can’t help but feel that you are getting gouged sometimes when you are paying for expensive treatments in general.

      I think we need more conversation on CAM (complimentary and alternative medicine) for pets (….and us)!  People just want to know their options for their pets…and all-natural prevention treatments, remedies, and cures can work in conjunction with convectional methods.

  6. I am always shocked when I hear that dogs can get such strange diseases. Is it because of what we feed them? I always wanted to have a dog, but then friends would tell me don’t get a pure breed they are prone to get ill. That kind of takes the fun out of having a dog and I never heard of cushings disease. Sounds terrible. Why would you give your dog any sort of medicaments in the first place? I see them as animals. Not as humans, maybe I am wrong here but if my dogs gets to ill he or she has to go. I would do the same with me. I don’t think there is anything wrong with passing on.

    1. Many diseases in animals and pets are contracted because the body has been compromised in some wat.  Either through poor diet, weakened internal organs or systems like the immune system.  If we keep a well-balance healthy dog we can hold off illnesses and fight off disease.

  7. This is a hideous disease, I lost a dog June 3, 2016…a beautiful papillion. She had Cushing’s disease..i could not give her enough food…she drank a TON of water, which before she wouldn’t go near…she suffered. No one even checked her for this disease because her coat looked good and she didn’t have the rounded belly.
    This dog was loved beyond any measure, ate the best foods available, saw a Dr everytime she sneezed. We are still so sad….if you suspect this disease go have an ultrasound done. Be your dog’s voice.

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