This month the topic is Addison’s and Cushing’s Disease, which are adrenal diseases that affect dogs. The content will not be all-encompassing, but rather will focus on diet considerations for both of the diseases with reference links containing additional information for those who would like to learn more.
It is important to know the signs and symptoms of both of these disorders, as the symptoms for each can vary from dog to dog and can oftentimes baffle the owner and the veterinarian. The symptoms not on vary, but can wax and wane and go up and down until a crisis occurs (i.e., collapse and even death).
In a nutshell, the adrenal gland controls the amount of cortisol that is released into the system. This helps with hormones and also works to control blood pressure, the heart, and glucose secretion (via glycogen transference in the liver), which in turn helps with energy and keeping the immune system strong.
Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for the adrenal glands or the pituitary gland (which works with the adrenals) to develop small tumors. Those can interfere with the cortisol that is released. If too much is released, Cushing’s Disease can result. If too little, Addison’s Disease can develop. Additionally, the use of steroids (as cortisol is a type of steroid) can bring about Cushing’s Disease. If your dog has been taking steroids of any kind and for any length of time, always monitor your dog and be aware of, and look for, any of the following symptoms!
Cushing’s Disease Symptoms
Drinking more water
Urinating more frequently
Loss of hair coat on stomach and sides
Develops a ‘pot belly’
Thinning of the skin
Panting and thirst
Blood work values
The following values that MAY be off with Cushing’s Disease are listed below. Please note, these can vary from dog to dog.
High Alk Phos
High White Blood Cell Count
Addison’s Disease Symptoms
Rear end weakness
Drinking more water
Urinating more frequently
Trembling or shaking
Depression and/or Fearful
The following values that MAY be off with Addison’s Disease are listed below. Please note, these can vary from dog to dog.
High BUN and Creatinine
High Liver Enzymes
High Red Blood Count
Should you suspect your dog may have either Cushing’s or Addison’s Disease, the best way to diagnose either of these is with an ACTH Stim test, which is done in-house at your veterinarian’s clinic. It is important to know that some dogs may pass this test and be in the early stages of the disease. Addison’s dogs won’t show up positive on this test until 85% to 90% of the adrenal cortex has atrophied.
Additionally, as previously noted, a common cause of Cushing’s Disease is steroid use, which includes prednisone, prednisolone, dexamethasone, triamcinolone, and methylprednisolone. Other immunosuppressive drugs that contain steroids include Azathioprine, cyclosporine, mycophenolate mofetil, and leflunomide (to only mention a few). It is very important to know exactly what is in each prescription given to your dog so you can know and understand the side effects. Knowledge is power!
Since Cushing’s Disease results from an over-abundance of cortisol, it would have the same effects as too much steroids in a dog’s system. Both can create an inflamed and irritated pancreas, so it is important to reduce the amount of fat in the dog’s diet to avoid pancreatitis. While fat doesn’t cause pancreatitis, it can increase the workload and thus the irritation to a pancreas leading to full blown pancreatitis.
A dog with Cushing’s Disease will benefit most from the following diet:
– Fresh food diet, either home cooked or raw. This type of diet provides better nutrition and helps support an already compromised immune system.
– Feed smaller, more frequent, meals to assist the digestive tract in processing smaller portions at a time. Feed 3 to 4 smaller meals a day instead of 1 or 2 larger ones.
For a home cooked diet, I recommend the Low Glycemic, Low Fat home cooked diet. This diet consists of a variety of meat choices, fed at approximately 75% of the diet, with 25% of the diet of cooked, low glycemic (sugar) vegetables.
For a raw diet, select lower fat meat choices. For raw meaty bones, use chicken necks or backs with skin REMOVED, turkey necks cut into pieces and pork neck bones with fat trimmed. For the other meal a day, use low fat hamburger, beef or pork heart with fat trimmed, green tripe, low fat yogurt or cottage cheese, chicken or turkey hearts and a small amount of beef kidney or liver.
Since digestion of fat is a concern, I suggest adding the Berte’s Digestion Blend. This contains l-glutamine which helps heal the digestive tract lining, animal based digestive enzymes which help predigest fats in the stomach before it reaches the small intestine, pancreas and liver. Additionally, adding a mix of probiotics will help keep the good flora and fauna in the dog’s system. Fish oil capsules, in moderation of one per 20 pounds of body weight, can help improve coat and skin and adding the Berte’s Immune Blend for the vitamins A, D, E, B complex and vitamin C, help support the immune system.
Addison’s disease is more easily treated, as it means adding more cortisol (steroids) to the dog’s system. Since these dogs are usually thin, fat is not an issue as along as the medication dose is correct. A dog with Addison’s disease will benefit most from the following diet:
– Fresh food diet, either raw or home cooked offers the best nutrition. There is no need to monitor fat in the diet because it is important for weight gain for a dog with Addison’s disease.
-Since many of these dogs exhibit diarrhea, small frequent meals are helpful until the digestive tract gets back on track.
The Berte’s Digestion Blend is also beneficial for dogs with Addison’s. The animal-based digestive enzymes help to better assimilate the nutrients for better digestion and the probiotics contained in the product help firm the stools. The Berte’s Immune Blend’s antioxidants can help restore the dog’s energy and the immune system and Fish oil capsules help enhance the immune system as well and they are renal, heart and liver protective.
Become familiar with the symptoms for Cushing’s and Addison’s Diseases and understand that long term steroid use can cause Cushing’s Disease. While any breed of dog can get Addison’s, breeds more prone to the disease appear to be Standard Poodles, Rottweilers, West Highland White Terriers, Leonbergers, Bearded Collies, Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers, Great Danes and Saint Bernards. Being aware of the symptoms of both these diseases is important for any dog owner. No one knows your dog better than you and this important information can help determine the diagnosis more quickly.
September is upon us!
Fall brings cooler weather making it a great time to start walking your dogs regularly!
Walks keep you in good shape and your dog’s muscle tone and joints in good shape.
Until next month, bone appetit!