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Coping With Cushing's Disease

Cushing's disease is a hyperactive adrenal gland disease that occurs when the adrenal glands pump out excessive amounts of hormones called glucorticoids. Glucorticoids are the body's natural source of cortisone. When excessive amounts are in the blood stream, they end up pushing the body's metabolism to the point where it becomes physically uncomfortable for the animal.

Sometimes Cushing's disease, or something similar to it, can come about from administering strong cortisone medications over a long period of time. Many pet owners are familiar with these medications, as they are often used to treat smaller ailments like excessive itching, pain or limping. In these cases, the symptoms can subside as you reduce the frequency and strength of synthetic cortisone dosage.

The telltale signs of Cushing's disease are excessive thirst & urination, as well as a change in appetite. Your pet may eat everything in sight and suddenly have a ravenous appetite. Other signs can include excessive pacing, hyperactivity, shedding, weakened or atrophied muscles, and a potbellied appearance.

If your pet is diagnosed with Cushing's disease, it's important to know what to expect from your veterinarian. They'll most likely perform some blood tests to confirm the diagnosis. The test wil also tell them whether these symptoms are stemming from an overactive adrenal or pituitary gland.

If diagnosed, your vet may prescribe Lysodren, a chemotherapeutic sort of drug that can stop the adrenal cortex from producing glucocorticoids. If this proves too strong for your pet, the vet may turn to the drug Ketoconazole. Ketoconazole is less toxic to the animal, but carries a few side effects of its own.

If the vet discovers that it's actually the pituitary gland that's overactive, they may recommend the drug, Anipryl. It's important to do your research on all the drugs to make sure you are minimizing the possible side effects your animal may experience.

Once you have a firm diagnosis, it's time to get right down to business with glandular therapy to protect the adrenal and pituitary glands. As usual, we'll start with the diet and offer up some supplements to boost adrenal gland health.

  • Vitamin C. Helps offset the high alkaline phosphatase levels in the blood due to an overactive adrenal gland. Look for foods that include apples and sweet potatoes. The following brands have great selections of diets for cats and dogs:
    • Pure Vita
    • Natural Balance
    • Nulo
    • Triumph
    • Fromm
    • Acana Singles
  • Phosphatidylserine. A phospholipid found in organ meats, helps lower cortisol levels. Pick up some raw livers, hearts, and kidneys from the store to give your pet a healthy dose.
    • Chicken livers
    • Chicken heart
    • Chicken kidneys
    • Lamb hearts
    • Beef livers

To get the best of both worlds, try switching to a raw diet. Primal, Steve's and Northwest Naturals are great brands to start with for optimal nutrition. If you're unsure about frozen foods, try the freeze-dried formulas. Cushing's disease, without a doubt, is a pretty serious condition that requires a little extra care for the rest of your pet's life. It is essential that no matter what, you make a consistent effort to support the adrenal glands, change the diet, support emotional well-being with the proper remedies and supplements.

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