I still remember how devastated I was when it was confirmed that Niko had Canine Cushings Disease. Not to ‘minimize cushings’, as it’s a serious disease to deal with, but I can almost laugh at myself now, knowing what a small bump in the road cushings was compared to cancer. That combination is not a good one.
Cushings can be hard to properly diagnose. Our vet had suspected Cushings for close to a year before he was finally diagnosed. We had high liver enzymes and his coat wasn’t the same. We did the urine cortisol test and it seemed to point to no cushings. We got the liver enzymes down a bit with meds and life went on.
It was about February of 2008 when Niko started peeing in the house. He was NEVER the kind of dog that had accidents in the house. It started to happen frequently. We noticed he was drinking a ton of water and he needed to go out every 30 minutes or so. He had also started to slow down a lot and had almost no heat tolerance. (*Note – I developed a water log in excel to monitor his intake. Download a blank, customizable version here: water log)
Back to the vet we went. No UTI and no sign of diabetes. The vet was still convinced we had cushings – so we scheduled an adrenal ultrasound and a Low Dose Dexamethasone Suppression Test. We ended up doing the ultrasound first. It clearly showed 2 equally enlarged adrenal glands – which points to Pituitary Dependant Hyperadrenocorticism (PDH) cushings. The Low Dose Dex Sup test confirmed it.
I had been doing a lot of reading on Cushings and treatment options. There are only 2 effective treatments for PDH, and I was afraid of both. I voted to try another drug with a very low success rate, but would be easy on him (and me). No luck. And the more I learned about the disease, the more I understood that not treating it, was NOT an option. Cushings is caused by a pituitary tumor that makes the adrenals pump out excess cortisol (steroid). In time, the steroid will eat away at his organs and shut his body down. It’s also not a comfortable life style with the excessive thirst, excessive hunger, and fatigue.
On August 1, 2008, we started him on Lysodren. It took him 5 days to ‘load’. Once you believe they are loaded (where you give the drug 2 x a day), you do a ACTH Stimulation Test to see where their ‘numbers’ are. You then go on a maintenence planning give a much smaller dose of the drug throughout each week. By mid August, Niko seemed to have the energy he did back when he was about 10. He was happy, he lost weight, he had a ton of energy, he drank, ate, and went out normally. Within a few weeks, his skin and coat drastically improved as well. It was a wonderful time to have with him, and I’m so glad we got to see him like this.
We had incredible online support through K9Cushings.com. Anyone with a cush pup – as they are affectionately called – should join this group of others that have been there and give excellent advice and support. Cushings is not a death sentence and dogs can live many years of a normal life after diagnosis. It’s not a walk in the park, but there are options.
CLICK HERE to light a virtual candle for a cush pup.
Useful Canine Cushings Links
Kate Connick’s Crash Course in Cushings (first site I found when researching)
Marvistavet’s site has a great collection of information too
There is, of course, tons of helpful information on K9Cushings.com’s site in the forums.