Canine Cushing’s disease is, simply put, when a dog’s adrenal or pituitary glands produce excessive corticosteroids. Cushing’s disease is not observed in canine species living in the wild, so it seems that human intervention (unhealthy dog food, and corticosteroids given as medications-often to treat allergic reactions triggered by the bad dog food) is likely to be the root cause of canine Cushing’s disease.
The effect of diet on canine Cushing’s disease has only recently become apparent. The reasons for this are many. The prevailing theory is that, since the symptoms mimic and even include so many other conditions, especially ones that come naturally with age, the Cushing’s disease is usually not diagnosed until the dog is approximately 8-10 years old. At this stage, the canine Cushing’s is often so advanced, all that can be done is to attempt to extend the life of the dog, and ease any discomfort they may be experiencing. In many cases, veterinary medications can actually make the dog’s symptoms worse, although each dog is different.
Even at this advanced stage, however, diet can have a marked effect on canine Cushing’s sufferers. Research strongly suggests that if a ‘Cushing’s diet’ is fed from a young age, it may even be possible to prevent Cushing’s disease from ever occurring. A ‘Cushings diet’ in a nutshell is:
- Low in purines
- High in protein
- Low in fat
- Low in fiber
Examples of relatively low-purine foods for a canine Cushing’s diet include chicken, tripe, turkey, lamb, rabbit, and pork. Organ meats should be avoided, as should many forms of seafood. Cooking the food breaks down purines, allowing more of them to be absorbed by the Cushing’s dog, so in an optimal situation, the food would be served in its natural state, raw, including the bones (uncooked bones do not present the same splintering danger to dogs as cooked bones, but dogs should be observed while eating them, to be on the safe side). This may sound extremely difficult and time consuming, but many people do feed ‘DIY raw’ and swear by it. There are also several companies that make and sell foods that are ‘fresh/raw’, ‘frozen/raw’ or ‘dehydrated/raw’, for those who have neither the time nor the urge to make the raw Cushing’s diet themselves. These foods are usually grain and gluten free, or very low in both, as grains have been proven to trigger allergies and immune reactions in dogs.
Herbal supplements for the treatment of canine Cushing’s disease are available, and should at least be considered as a possible add-on to the Cushing’s diet. These herbal products can vary widely from manufacturer to manufacturer, and the consumer should be certain before administering it, that the herbal solutions will not interfere with any medications or supplements the Cushing’s dog is already taking.
Dog owners have reported all ranges of results after changing their dog’s food to a Cushing’s diet, from a complete remission of previously severe symptoms, to a complete lack of any response related to the disease or it’s symptoms. Most, however, report at least some noticeable, positive results after adopting the canine Cushing’s diet.
Owners of a dog with Cushings will recognize the symptoms; seemingly insatiable hunger, excessive thirst (causing increased urine output), hair loss and skin issues, and frequent ear infections, to name a few. Sadly, most veterinarians do not know enough about canine Cushings to diagnose it, and pet owners find themselves spending more time (and money) at the vet as the years go by, and the dog is repeatedly misdiagnosed. By adopting a Cushing’s diet early on, the pet owner may be able to delay, lessen the effects of, or completely prevent, canine Cushing’s disease.
My own experience with my two beloved Cushing’s dogs, Hammie and Babysass