Cushing’s Disease in Dogs: Symptoms & Treatments

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Often confused as a condition only occurring in humans, Cushing’s disease in dogs is more than just common. In this article, we cover what is Cushing disease in dogs, its symptoms, treatments, and prognosis. Read ahead.

What is Cushing’s Disease in Dogs?

A condition which leads to the overproduction of a steroid hormone, cortisol, Cushing’s disease in dogs or hyperadrenocorticism, usually affects middle-aged or older dogs.

Cortisol is a hormone produced by the endocrine system in the body; it helps in the management and regulation of stress and the immune system. Although good for the body at optimum levels, an excess of this hormone, as in the case of Cushing’s disease in dogs, can lead to a lot of damage. It can be caused by taking high levels of any steroid dog medicine for a long time, say for the treatment of an immune system disorder or allergies. It can also be caused by the growth of a benign tumor on either side of the pituitary or the adrenal glands, according to a report published by the Bluecross.

Cushing’s Disease in Dogs Symptoms

Cushing’s disease (CD) in dogs often goes unnoticed as its symptoms may get mistaken for the common sign of aging. As it usually affects older than the age of eight, by the time the dog owner/family realizes that their dog has CD, it already takes on to its advanced form. This makes it all the more necessary to recognize the symptoms.

There are many tell-tale signs and symptoms of Cushing’s disease in dogs, according to a report published by the Washing State University. Let us take a detailed look at them below.

  • Hair loss on the body (not on the legs and head)
  • Pot-belly
  • Increase in appetite
  • Over-consumption of water
  • Excessive urination, also known as polydipsia and polyuria (PU/PD)
  • Itchiness on the skin
  • Skin thinness
  • Easy-bruising
  • Obesity
  • Lack of energy

When left untreated, it may also give rise to more symptoms, such as the following.

  • Difficulty in walking
  • Poor vision
  • Diabetes
  • Seizures
  • Weakness in the muscles and bones

If you observe these symptoms in your dogs, then please go to a veterinarian and get a proper medical diagnosis done.

Cushing’s Disease in Dogs Treatment

There are three treatment options available for the treatment of Cushing’s disease in dogs. They include oral medication treatment, radiation therapy, and even surgery in some cases.

Oral Medication

If your dog has been diagnosed with pituitary-dependent Cushing’s disease, then oral medication such as Vetoryl (trilostane) or Mitotane may be prescribed to him/her for a lifetime. It works by reducing the cortisol production in the adrenal glands.

The oral treatment, also known as induction, is given daily for about a week, after which the dosage of these drugs is significantly reduced as they can have severe side effects on your dogs. This makes it crucial to keep a watch on your dogs, while they are on them. Even after the treatment, some dogs can go into relapse and again start to develop the symptoms of the disease. It is important to consult a veterinarian before you decide on the right treatment or drug for your dog.

Radiation

In order to reduce the size of a small pituitary tumor, the veterinarian may prescribe radiation therapy. It helps with the symptoms of pituitary-dependent Cushing’s disease. Again, close monitoring is required in case of chemotherapy or radiation-related treatments as per the FDA.

Surgery

Although not the most widely available option, if the disease is adrenal-dependent, research says that it can only be treated by removing the benign tumor through surgery. If the tumor is malignant, it can spread to the other parts of the body, in which case the surgery might not help. In the case of a pituitary tumor, transsphenoidal surgery is used. It involves the use of an exoscope to reach the pituitary through the mouth. Surgical removal of the tumor eliminates the need for lifelong medication.

Prognosis

There is no apparent cure for Cushing’s disease in dogs, although treatment and control of the condition are possible if the tumor is small. You can see the signs disappearing quickly after the treatment begins. While symptoms like water and appetite consumption get better within a few weeks, full recovery of the fur takes a few months, as per a report published by the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine. In the case of a large tumor, the dog has a lesser chance of getting treated. There are also cases where the tumor may be malignant, for which the prognosis is deemed poor.

Note: Please consult a medical practitioner or veterinarian in case you observe the symptoms of Cushing’s disease in your dog. It is only after a series of blood tests, ultrasounds, and other tests that you can diagnose the condition for sure.

Original Article

Do DHA Supplements Improve Brain Function?

The concept of vitamins was first described by none other than Dr. Funk. In his landmark paper in 1912, he discussed the notion that there were complex compounds our body couldn’t make from scratch, so we had to get them from our diet. By the mid-20th century, all the vitamins had been discovered and isolated, but it wasn’t until the 1960s that we realized that certain fats were essential, too.

In 1929, the necessity for fat was definitively settled… “in the diet (of the rat),” but when one of the researchers tried a 99 percent fat-free diet on himself for six months, ironically, he felt better. His high blood pressure went away, he felt more energetic, and his migraines disappeared. This one-man experiment “fortif[ied] the medical profession’s doubt that essential fatty acids had any relevance to humans,” until TPN—Total Parenteral Nutrition, meaning feeding someone exclusively through an IV—was developed in the 1960s. TPN was initially developed for babies born without working intestines. Because we didn’t think humans needed fat, “the first preparations were fat free, and they rapidly induced severe EFA [essential fatty acid] deficiencies, ultimately convincing the medical community” that some fats are indeed essential. They started out using safflower oil, but, as they discovered in a young girl given the oil after an abdominal gunshot wound, we don’t just need fat—we need specific fats like omega-3s. So, when they switched from safflower oil to soybean oil, she was restored to normal.

The fact it took so long and under such extreme circumstances to demonstrate the essential nature of omega-3s illustrates how hard it is to develop overt omega-3 deficiency. Of course, the amount required to avoid deficiency is not necessarily the optimal amount for health. The vitamin C in a spoonful of orange juice would be enough to avoid scurvy (the overt vitamin C deficiency disease), but no one considers that enough vitamin C for optimal health.

As I discuss in my video Should We Take DHA Supplements to Boost Brain Function?, what would optimal omega-3 status look like? Well, doubt has been cast on its role in heart health (see Is Fish Oil Just Snake Oil?), which appears to have been based on a faulty premise in the first place (see Omega-3s and the Eskimo Fish Tale), so taking extra omega-3s for our heart might not make any sense (see Should We Take EPA and DHA Omega-3 for Our Heart?). But what about for our baby’s brain (see Should Pregnant and Breastfeeding Women Take DHA?)? Extra DHA may not help pregnant or breast-feeding fish-eaters, but those who want to avoid the contaminants in fishes can take supplements of pollutant-free algae oil to get the best of both worlds for their babies (see Should Vegan Women Supplement with DHA During Pregnancy?). What about adults? There doesn’t appear to be any apparent psychological (see Fish Consumption and Suicide) or neurological (see Is Fish “Brain Food” for Older Adults?) benefit of DHA supplementation for the general public, but what about in those who don’t eat fish?

The famous Alpha Omega Trial randomized thousands of people over three years to get either long-chain omega-3s from fish, short-chain omega-3s from plants, or placebo. The result? The study found no significant benefits for any kind of omega-3 supplementation on global cognitive decline. However, most of the subjects were eating fish, thereby already getting pre-formed DHA in their diets. General population studies like this, that find no benefit, can’t fully inform us about the role of DHA in brain health. It would be akin to giving half these people oranges, finding no difference in scurvy rates (zero in both groups), and concluding vitamin C plays no role in scurvy.

In 2013, for the first time, DHA supplementation was found to improve memory and reaction time among young adults who rarely ate fish. Previous randomized, controlled trials failed to find such a benefit among18- to 45-year-olds, but they only lasted a few months at most, whereas the 2013 study lasted for six months. If all the studies showed either no effect or a positive effect, one might give it a try. But in one of those shorter trials, DHA supplementation didn’t just fail to show benefit—it appeared to make things worse. After 50 days, those who consumed the DHA had worse memory than those taking the placebo. So, out of the six randomized controlled trials for DHA supplementation, four showed nothing, one showed a benefit, and one showed a harm. If it were just about boosting brain function in the short term, I’d err on the side of caution and spend my money elsewhere.

What about the long term though? See Should Vegans Take DHA to Preserve Brain Function?.

In health,
Michael Greger, M.D.

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Original Article