Canine Cushing’s Disease: Viva Has Cushing’s

Cushing’s disease is caused by excess cortisol in the body.

Canine Cushing’s disease is most prevalent in middle-aged to older dogs, especially poodles, dachshunds, Boston terriers, boxers, and beagles.

You can learn why too much cortisol in a dog’s body is a problem here.

Canine Cushing's Disease: Viva Has Cushing's

Viva’s story

Helping Viva to get better and improve health is a lot like peeling the layers of an onion.

Just when we thought we addressed all of her issues, we find out we are looking at yet another layer.

The warning signs have been around all the time.

High liver numbers returned from her very first blood-work. Not as high to worry about, treat or investigate further. But high enough to keep on monitoring her regularly just in case.

Initial symptoms

The first external signs came about one month ago. Viva was slowing down on our daily work-out.

We gave her some rest, an additional acupuncture session – maybe she was in pain? – but to no avail. She rapidly became more lethargic, and stopped playing and ear-nibbling with Kenzo, her favorite past-time!

Investigation revealed that Viva’s spondylosis had not gotten worse, but her liver numbers had exploded.

The diagnosis

High liver numbers could be caused by just about anything and further testing was needed. We were in for a couple of painstaking weeks of further testing, investigating, and discussing theories.

Our regular vet started suspecting Viva of having Cushing’s disease after some additional testing.

Although not all the signs have been adding up. She turned out to be spot on.

Cushing’s disease, or hyperadrenocorticism, is an overproduction of cortisol hormone.

It can be caused by over-stimulation of the adrenal glands due to a tumor on the pituitary gland or a tumor on the adrenal gland itself.

What causes it?

Most dogs develop Cushing’s because of a tumor on the pituitary gland. The tumor causes overproduction of ACTH hormones which in turn stimulates an overproduction of cortisol.

While the tumor itself is usually benign, Cushing’s is a life-threatening condition affecting inner organs like kidneys and liver.

Some of the most common signs are hair-loss, pot-belly, lethargic behavior, incontinence, and being overly interested in food and water. Apart from being lethargic, Viva had none of those signs. Yet she always had been overly interested in food and water as a former obese dog.

Testing Viva for Cushing’s sounded like a wild-goose chase. However, I am happy to have followed our vet’s gut feeling on this one.

To diagnose Cushing’s we started with a urine test to measure cortisol levels. They were sky-high. Next was an ACTH stimulation test, which was conclusive. Now it was final, Viva has Cushing’s. The diagnosis was actually a huge relief. A month had already passed and I was so worried about Viva’s discomfort for so long and not being able to help her.

The treatment

We started treating Viva with Vetoryl (Trilostane). Already after 5 days, Viva was feeling better! Kenzo got his first ear-nibble in a month, which we celebrated with the whole family that day. It was awesome to witness.

Vetoryl is a very aggressive medicine, that messes with the hormone level. Administering the correct doses is extremely important, as Viva can die if we administer either too much or too little.

Viva will need Vetoryl for the rest of her life.

The doses can vary over time, and Viva has to be tested quarterly to ensure the doses is correct. Those quarterly tests include an ACTH stimulation test and 3 different blood-work tests.

The onion

We are three layers down allergies, spondylosis and Cushing’s. Maybe we are done, maybe we are not. Yet another lesson Kenzo and Viva taught me.

Health is not a shopping list with items you can check off and wrap up.

Viva’s story is shared with us by my good friend @Kenzo_HW. Check out his blog, it’s got awesome information on Hovawarts, tracking, nose work and lots of other great stuff.

Related articles:
Living With A Cushing’s Dog: Viva’s Story
Primer On Cushing’s Disease

Further reading:
Cushing’s Disease in Dogs

Categories: ConditionsCushing's diseaseReal-life Stories

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Jana Rade

I am a graphic designer, dog health advocate, writer, and author. Jasmine, the Rottweiler of my life, was the largest female from her litter. We thought we were getting a healthy dog. Getting a puppy from a backyard breeder was our first mistake. Countless veterinary visits without a diagnosis or useful treatment later, I realized that I had to take Jasmine's health care in my own hands. I learned the hard way that merely seeing a vet is not always enough. There is more to finding a good vet than finding the closest clinic down the street. And, sadly, there is more to advocating for your dog's health than visiting a veterinarian. It should be enough, but it often is not. With Jasmine, it took five years to get a diagnosis. Unfortunately, other problems had snowballed for that in the meantime. Jasmine's health challenges became a crash course in understanding dog health issues and how to go about getting a proper diagnosis and treatment. I had to learn, and I had to learn fast. Helping others through my challenges and experience has become my mission and Jasmine's legacy. I now try to help people how to recognize and understand signs of illness in their dogs, how to work with their veterinarian, and when to seek a second opinion. My goal is to save others the steep curve of having to learn things the hard way as I did. That is the mission behind my blog and behind my writing. That is why I wrote Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog, which has turned out being an award-winning guide to dog owners. What I'm trying to share encompasses 20 years of experience.

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