putting a dog down with cushings disease

When to Put a Dog Down with Cushing’s Disease

When to Put a Dog Down with Cushing’s Disease?

Cushing’s disease is also known as hyperadrenocorticism. It’s a terrible canine disease and the result of a tumour in the pituitary gland. The hormone secreted by this gland forces other glands to produce cortisol in devastating doses. Excess cortisol causes heaps of issues. This is a type of steroid hormone, and it can lead directly to Cushing’s disease.

In dogs, Cushing’s disease is debilitating. It’s one of the biggest concerns among dog owners. When your pup develops this disease, they end up suffering, living in pain, and it eventually comes time to decide whether to allow your dog to continue suffering or to put them down.

Today, we’re going to look at the symptoms of Cushing’s disease and how they worsen. We’ll take a deeper look at what exactly this disease is. And finally, we’ll talk about when it’s time to euthanize a dog because of this terrible affliction.

When Should I Put Down My Dog with Cushing’s Disease?

This is the hardest decision any dog owner has to make. When considering putting down your dog, there are two main factors. First of all, is your dog uncontrollably urinating everywhere? If your dog can no longer control their bladder, it’s probably time to consider euthanasia.

Secondly, if your dog is constantly drinking, the disease has probably progressed to a point where it’s not fair to let them live. Excessive drinking is a sign that they’re nearing the end.

Even with medical therapy, a dog really only has 15 months to live once they develop Cushing’s disease. If you’ve been treating your dog for almost 15 months or close to a year, the pup is reaching the end of their life anyway, and if surgery isn’t an option and they’re beginning to show signs that they’re close to death, euthanasia can be a mercy.

This is a hard decision and should not be taken lightly. If you’ve noticed a decrease in the quality of life of your dog, visit the veterinarian and talk about your options.

What is Cushing’s Disease?

Cushing’s Disease is caused by a tumor on the pituitary gland. This is a small gland about the size of a pea located at the base of the dog’s brain. In rarer cases, the tumor could be on the adrenal glands, which are located at the top of the kidneys. 

No matter where the tumor is, it still creates excess cortisol. The cause is usually from the prolonged use of steroids.

What Are the Symptoms of Cushing’s Disease in Dogs?

If your dog is suffering from Cushing’s disease, they will almost certainly display at least one of the following symptoms but oftentimes more. Of course, many of these symptoms can be signs of just about anything, but many of them together can be a sure sign that something is very wrong.

  • General weakness
  • Excess panting
  • Lethargy
  • An increase in appetite
  • An increase in drinking
  • Loss of hair and thinning of the skin
  • Frequent urination or incontinence
  • An enlargement of the abdomen, becoming pot bellied

If your dog has only one of these symptoms, you shouldn’t be too concerned. More than one means you should immediately contact your veterinarian. Some symptoms are more severe than others and require immediate attention. If your dog is losing hair or their skin is becoming thin, or if they are weak or lethargic, or if they become unnaturally bloated, it’s time to go to the doggie doctor.

How is Cushing’s Disease Diagnosed?

If you suspect your dog has Cushing’s disease, they will need to go to the veterinarian to be diagnosed. The way this happens is that the vet will perform a physical exam and run several tests. This is standard procedure to see what is causing your pet’s symptoms. This isn’t just to check for Cushing’s disease, it’s also to rule out other major health problems and to get to the bottom of the issue.

Some tests include an analysis of the urine, a full blood panel, and a physical exam. In the case of suspected Cushing’s disease, the veterinarian will also do adrenal low dose testing as well as adrenal function tests.

In addition, your dog will probably be subjected to an ultrasound to look for other diseases with similar symptoms such as tumors in the liver or spleen, gallbladder disease, bladder stones, inflammatory liver disease, and numerous gastrointestinal issues.

Finally, the most effective diagnostic test for Cushing’s disease is the MRI, or magnetic resonance imaging. This will cost a lot of money. However, it is the best way for a veterinarian to see your dog’s adrenal glands to know if there is a tumor.

Is There Treatment for Cushing’s Disease?

Treatment for Cushing’s disease is limited and depends on the type of tumor. In general, treatment involves medications to reduce the amount of cortisone being produced by the adrenal glands. This is really the only effective way to help the problem and to allow your dog to live for at least a little bit longer.

Can Cushing’s disease be cured? Surprisingly, yes. But the way to do it is dangerous. The only way to get rid of Cushing’s disease once and for all is to remove the tumor. This isn’t easy. Because of how complex and risky the surgery is, most veterinarians recommend medication instead of surgery.

In the end, it’s your decision to operate or to medicate. Medication assures a longer life while surgery could end in abrupt disaster. However, the upside to surgery is that if the tumor is removed, your dog will live for significantly longer.

Treating a Pituitary Tumor: To treat a tumor developed on the pituitary gland, two drugs are required. Your dog will need to be medicated with trilostane and mitotane.

Treating an Adrenal Tumor: if your dog has a tumor directly on their adrenal glands, there must be minor surgery. If the tumor can be removed and doesn’t prove malignant, your dog may regain their health and live a full life. If the tumor can’t be removed, your dog may need to be put down.

Do Dogs with Cushing’s Disease Suffer?

The biggest concern for dog owners is if their pet is suffering. Nobody wants their dog friend to be in pain. With Cushing’s disease, there is minor suffering but it can be minimized and even mitigated with long-term management and vigilance on the part of the owner.

The good news is that treatment using medication is easy, affordable, and has very few side effects. The bad news is that there must be consistent checkups with the veterinarian and blood tests to ensure the medication is working as it should be.

If there are complications with the medication, your dog will begin to suffer. Not only that, but once medication stops working or if it’s not being applied properly, your dog could quickly die.

If untreated, your dog is definitely suffering from Cushing’s disease. Between discomfort, the embarrassment of urinating in the house, and the lethargy and weakness, life with Cushing’s disease is not great for a dog.

It should be noted that treating a dog with medication is not a cure. They still will eventually die from the disease even when treatment is involved. But if untreated, death will come much faster.

How Long Can a Dog Live with Cushing’s Disease?

On average, a dog can survive Cushing’s disease for roughly three years. However, this is only in a best-case scenario. Usually, a dog only has two years to live from the time they developed the disease.

It’s important to know that a dog with Cushing’s disease can maintain a good quality of life if they are properly treated, regularly checked by the veterinarian, and taken care of by their owner. There will need to be blood work, checkups, and probably the administration of medication on a daily basis.

A dog can live for an optimistic three years with this disease, but it will be a long and stressful three years for you and your pet. You will need to exercise extreme patience when dealing with this kind of sickness.

What Are the Last Stages of Cushing’s in Dogs?

The last stages of Cushing’s disease are going to be the worst. If you think your dog is reaching the final stages, it may be time to euthanize. If your dog has stopped eating, if they’re suffering severe muscle loss, if you find they are spending a lot of time sleeping or laying around, they could be in their final days.

The symptoms of the last stage of the disease are the same as at the first stage, only exacerbated. Lesions on the skin, severe hair loss along the neck, unnatural obesity, and a dramatic drop in energy are symptoms that the end is just around the corner.

At this point, there’s not much to be done and it’s time to speak to your veterinarian about a peaceful and happy way to go to sleep. 

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