I recently spent some time researching Canine Cushing’s Disease in dogs.
Specifically to find out if a dog’s condition affected by the disease can improve with raw dog food.
Turns out it can!
However, there are several foods that should be avoided, regardless of the type of diet you feed your dog (raw, home cooked, kibble or canned dog food).
Additionally, integrative and holistic veterinarians recommend certain natural remedies for dogs with Cushing’s Disease that support the adrenal gland and lower stress levels.
That said, here’s what you’ll find in this blog post:
- Definition of Canine Cushing’s Disease
- Causes, symptoms and traditional treatment
- Which types of food to feed and which to avoid
- Herbal and natural supplements recommended by vets
- A video from an integrative veterinarian
Canine Cushing’s Disease: Can Raw Dog Food Help?
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What Is Canine Cushing’s Disease?
Let’s start with the basics!
On average, 100k dogs in the US are diagnosed with Canine Cushing’s disease per year.
Canine Cushing’s Disease is also known as hyperadrenocorticism.
It’s an endocrine disorder that mostly affects middle-aged and older dogs.
Endocrine implies an imbalance in hormones.
In Cushing’s Disease, it means that the dog’s adrenal glands overproduce the stress hormone cortisol.
That said, it can cause kidney damage, diabetes, blood clots and high blood pressure.
Unfortunately, the disease can’t be cured.
However, it can be managed if it’s caught early.
That’s a really good reason to have your dog’s bloodwork done every year!
Causes of Canine Cushing’s Disease
Typically, it’s caused by a tumor in the pituitary gland which is located at the base of the dog’s brain.
But it can also be caused by a tumor near the kidneys which is known as adrenal Cushing’s Disease. However, this form is more rare.
Another cause can be excessive steroid treatment. For example for skin allergies and arthritis. This type is known as iatrogenic Cushing’s disease.
Definitely a good reason NOT to treat your dog’s food related allergies with steroids! Instead, try an elimination diet. The way it works is you slowly eliminate/add different foods from/to your dog’s meals to find out which ones they do or don’t do well with.
Symptoms of Canine Cushing’s Disease
Typical behavioral changes include the following:
- Increased appetite
- Excessive thirst and increased urination
- Hair loss
- Skin rashes
- Dark skin patches
- Poor wound healing
- Muscle weakness – reduced activity
- Enlarged abdomen
The increased cortisol levels also increase the dog’s cholesterol and triglyceride levels. In other words, the dog’s fat cushions.
Conventional Treatments for Cushing’s Disease in Dogs
For dogs with a pituitary tumor, the most common treatment is radiation to reduce the size of the tumor.
For dogs with an adrenal tumor, the typical treatment is abdominal surgery. However, it’s very risky and only an option if the tumor hasn’t spread yet.
Other approaches are medications like trilostane and mitotane.
Nonetheless, they’re expensive and can have severe side effects. For example, vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, weakness and low blood sugar.
Food Diet as Managing Approach for Dogs with Cushing’s Disease
It’s important to feed a diet rich in moisture, such as a raw dog food diet.
If you can’t or don’t want to feed raw meals, you can also cook your dog’s food instead.
Other options are canned meals (e.g. Ziwi Peak ) or a kibble diet (e.g. Solid Gold), although kibble definitely has the least moisture content.
Most importantly though, you’ll want to eliminate carbs! That’s regardless of which type of food you feed.
The reason for this is because they cause insulin to be released, which in turn causes even more cortisol to be released than it already is.
(Raw) foods to feed should be:
- High in protein
- Low in fat
- Low in fiber
Examples of meats you can feed are lean beef, turkey, rabbit and chicken without the skin.
Veggies you can feed are puréed carrots, broccoli, shitakii mushrooms, zucchini, brussels sprouts and cauliflower.
Dogs with Cushing’s Disease should also eat flax hulls because they’re rich in lignans. They help lower cortisol hormones and reduce blood pressure as well as cholesterol levels.
Foods to avoid:
There are several types of food that shouldn’t be fed to dogs suffering from Canine Cushing’s Disease.
Most importantly, avoid the ones that are high in fat and low in proteins, for instance:
- Fatty cuts of beef, chicken skin, lamb and pork
- Potatoes, peas, wheat, corn and rice
Herbal/natural supplements to support the immune system and decrease stress levels
According to holistic veterinarian Dr. Deva Khalsa, these Chinese herbs are beneficial for dogs with Cushing’s Disease:
- Rehmannia 11
- Rehmannia 14
- Ophiopogon Powder
- Liver Happy
Western herbs that offer support are:
- Adrenal Harmony Gold (Pet Wellbeing)
- Adrenal Support (PranaPets)
Both have these benefits:
- Promotes healthy skin and coat
- Helps normal hair growth
- Supports normal thirst and urination
- Supports healthy weight, normal appetite and proper muscle tone
Adrenal Harmony Gold ingredients:
- Fresh Ashwagandha root (Withania somniferum)
- Holy Basil leaf (Ocimum sanctum)
- Fresh Turmeric rhizome (Curcuma longa)
- Bacopa herb (Bacopa monnieri)
- Sarsaparilla root (Smilax officinalis)
- Astragalus root (Astragalus membranaceus)
- Milk Thistle seed (Silybum marianum)
- Blessed Thistle flower (Cnicus benedictus)
- Chaste Tree berry (Vitex agnus-castus)
- Prickly Ash bark (Zanthoxylum americanum)
- Inactive ingredients: Deionized Water, Natural Bacon Flavor, Vegetable Glycerin
Adrenal Support ingredients:
- Astragalus (root)
- Turmeric (root)
- Dandelion (root)
- Horsetail (herb)
- Cleavers (root)
- Burdock (root)
- Panax Ginseng (root)
- Ashwagandha (root)
- Inactive ingredients: Purified Water, USP Vegetable Glycerin, Potassium Sorbate, Citric Acid
Herbs to avoid are licorice and borage leaf because they increase adrenal activity.
Consult Your Holistic, Homeopathic or Integrative Vet
As with every disease, it’s important to involve a vet.
That’s especially true as you notice symptoms that might be an indicator for Canine Cushing’s disease.
In my opinion, it’s ideal to consult an integrative vet such as Dr. Karen Becker.
These types of vets are open to combining traditional treatments with natural remedies.
I recommend you watch her video on Cushing’s Disease below. It’s very informative and presented in an understandable way for us non-vets!
Can Dogs With Canine Cushing’s Disease Eat Raw Dog Food? Bottom Line
While Canine Cushing’s Disease can’t be cured, its early stages are quite manageable with the right type of food as well as herbal and natural supplements.
As with many things in life, prevention is key, and that includes a healthy lifestyle, yearly wellness exams and bloodwork at your (integrative) vet’s.
It’s also important to provide adequate amounts of physical exercise to lower your dog’s stress levels and help provide muscle strength.
So go ahead and take your pup on those daily walks and weekend hikes!
Content Related to Canine Cushing’s Disease:
- Raw Feeding Dalmatians: Can They Eat Raw Dog Food?
- How To Talk To Your Anti Raw Vet About Raw Dog Food