Natural Treatment Cushing’s Disease in Dogs – Comprehensive Guide 2023

Medical review by K9 Healthcare Council of America (K9HCA). Intended for educational purposes only. Always seek medical advice from your veterinarian.

Cushing’s Disease in Dogs Natural Treatment

Canine Cushing’s disease, also known as hyperadrenocorticism, is when the dog’s adrenal glands produce an excess of hormones–most notably, Cortisol.

More often than not, older dogs suffer from Cushing’s Disease and the symptoms frequently mimic other pathologies. Left untreated, dogs with Cushing’s Disease can develop calcified skin bumps, obesity, severe muscle weakness and be subject to excessive infections.

However, natural treatment Cushing’s disease in dogs are easy to use and often very successful.

Overview of Cushing’s Disease in Dogs

Cushing’s disease is a debilitating disease, usually affecting geriatric dogs. Cushing’s happens due to a malfunction in your dog’s Endocrine System.

Specifically, Cushing’s disease in dogs occurs when the dog’s adrenal glands overproduce Cortisol, also known as the “stress hormone”.

The adrenal glands produce and store Cortisol. When a dog is under stress, its adrenal glands emit cortisol as a normal response to perceived danger.

This response triggers a “fight-or-flight” chemical reaction. However, if stress (or stressors) becomes chronic, cortisol is released uncontrollably at the expense of the dog’s long-term health.

While the list of Cushing’s disease symptoms is long and can vary in degree depending on the dog, the typical symptoms of Cushing’s disease in dogs include increased appetite and urination, excessive panting and thirst, hair loss, skin issues, enlarged abdomen, and high blood sugar.

Clinical Signs of Cushing’s Disease in Dogs

Some of these symptoms overlap with those from other diseases, so be sure to check your dog’s health carefully. An older dog is more likely to develop Cushing’s, so start examining them if they pass middle-age and show any of the signs.

The most obvious symptom dog owners notice is hair loss. If your dog is shedding more fur than usual, then it may be an indication of excess cortisol.

The same goes for skin infections or increased fragility. In addition, keep an eye on lethargy, appetite and thirst. If your dog is hungrier and thirstier than usual, then cortisol may be draining the body.

Natural treatment Cushing's disease in dogs
Anxious dogs tend to have higher stress levels, putting them at risk for Cushing’s disease as they grow older.

Another concern is if your dog develops a potbelly without increased hunger or food intake. An ultrasound by your holistic vet may will reveal any potential problems with your dog’s stomach.

Common Cushing’s Symptoms

  • Increased hunger, thirst, and urination
  • Increased panting
  • Pot-belly appearance
  • Obesity (excess fat on the neck and shoulders)
  • Hair loss
  • Low energy
  • Hyperpigmentation of the skin
  • Muscle weakness
  • Bruising
  • Hard, white scaly patches on the skin, elbows, etc.

In addition to excessive drinking, excessive eating, excessive urination and obesity, Canine Cushing’s Disease can also be recognized by changes in your dog’s behavior.

Cushing’s may be indicated if your dog has a sudden change in energy and is tired and lethargic all the time or has decreased interest in spending time with the owner.

Types of Cushing’s Disease in Dogs

So, now that you suspect something is happening with your dog’s health with possible changes in levels of cortisol hormone–the next step is to figure out which type of Cushing’s disease your dog has.

Pituitary-Dependent Hyperadrenocorticism (PDH)

As the name suggests, PDH is caused by enlargement of the pituitary gland, usually due to a tumor on the gland. The pituitary gland is a tiny gland at the base of the brain.

The pea-sized pituitary gland at the base off the brain controls the endocrine system. The pituitary secretes several hormones, including a hormone called ACTH (adrenocorticotropic hormone). ACTH causes the adrenal glands to make cortisol (another name for cortisol is glucocorticoids).

In pituitary dependent Cushing’s disease, the pituitary gland is enlarged so it produces too much ACTH. Subsequently, the excess ACTH triggers the adrenal glands to produce too much cortisol.

According to the FDA, roughly 80 to 85 percent of dog Cushing’s is pituitary dependent. Although PDH is the most common form of Cushing’s, the tumors are usually benign.

Adrenal-Dependent Hyperadrenocorticism (ADH)

In contrast, Adrenal-dependent Cushing’s is a little different. It involves a tumor on one or both of the adrenal glands causing the excess production of cortisol.

With adrenal dependent Cushing’s disease there is a 50/50 chance the adrenal tumor(s) will be malignant. ADH accounts for 10-15 percent of Cushing’s cases.

Cushing's disease in dogs
Cushing’s disease is often caused by an abnormal growth on either the pituitary gland or the adrenal glands.

Atypical Cushing’s Disease

The third type of Cushing’s disease in dogs is Atypical Cushing’s. Atypical Cushing’s Disease presents with the exact same symptoms as Cushing’s disease, yet no cortisol increase exists.

The adrenal glands produce increased levels of intermediate adrenal steroids, often called “sex steroids.” These increased sex steroids lead to the same symptoms as typical Cushing’s; however, standard Cushing’s tests fail to prove the diagnosis confusing both the veterinarian and pet owner.

But with proper treatment, hope exists for all types of Cushing’s Disease in dogs.

What causes Cushing's disease in dogs
Canine patients can develop hormonal diseases like Cushing’s following “aggressive vaccination administration.” Vaccines can dysregulate the immune system & alter hormonal functioning which impact hormonal signaling of the endocrine system.

Natural Treatment for Cushing’s Disease & Atypical Cushing’s Disease

Conventional Veterinary Medicine

If your dog is diagnosed with Cushing’s Disease, veterinarians often prescribe Trilostane or Lysodren. Lysodren is a chemotherapy drug that works by destroying the outer layer of the adrenal glands. This limits the glands’ ability to produce cortisol.

Unfortunately, both Trilostane and Lysodren often have side effects such as vomiting, lethargy, diarrhea and weight loss.

According to the Merck Veterinary Manual the prognoses for dogs with pituitary Cushing’s is about 2 years, with or without medical therapy.

Radiation treatment of pituitary tumors or removal of the pituitary gland (hypophysectomy) has a better prognosis of 2-5 years. Adrenal tumors can sometimes be removed with surgery (hypophysectomy), giving a possible prognosis of 18 months’ time.

Natural Treatments for Cushing’s Disease

Cushing’s disease in dogs is a serious condition needing careful management and accurate advice from an expert practitioner. Don’t try to do it on your own!

Every veterinarian or herbalist will have their favorite herbs and supplements for Cushing’s but here are some remedies you might expect your holistic professional to recommend.

‘Food as Medicine’ Dietary Approach

First and foremost, for pet owners with dogs diagnosed with Cushing’s, always consider Food as Medicine!

Dogs with Cushing’s disease often suffer from hyperlipidemia. Hyperlipidemia means your dog has too much fat circulating in its blood.

The Initial treatment of primary canine hyperlipidemia involves a switch to a low-fat diet (<25 g/1000 kcal) with moderate protein content (generally greater than 18%, or 60 g protein/1000 kcal). You can find commercial low-fat canine diets at most pet stores.

Make sure to choose a diet that is low in fat based on metabolizable energy (ME), and not strictly on the percent fat present in the diet.

Also feed a fresh, whole food diet, preferably raw and organic, with pasture-raised meats.

Additional dietary guidelines to improve Cushing’s symptoms:

– High, digestible protein to prevent muscle wasting
– Low fat to avoid high cholesterol and pancreatitis
– Keep calcium lower to avoid bladder stones
– Feed veggies and fruits

Hemp CBD for Canine Cushing’s Disease

CBD oil from hemp has the ability to be extremely helpful for dogs who may be experiencing Cushing’s disease.

The main ways that CBD oil can help with Cushing in dogs include addressing hormonal imbalances, attacking tumors, and alleviating painful and uncomfortable symptoms of the disease. Here’s a more detailed look at how CBD can be helpful in these three main ways.

  • Hormonal imbalances: The endocannabinoid system contains two receptors, the CB1 and CB2 receptors. CBD works directly with those receptors to bring balance to the body. The CB1 receptor is directly linked to the adipose tissue, liver, and adrenal glands, among other things. CBD oil can work to correct hormonal imbalances in the body that may be contributing to the progression and severity of Cushing’s disease.
  • Attacking tumors: CBD oil has been linked to creating natural cell death in cancer cells and tumors. Additionally, CBD oil can work to stop the creation of blood vessels that help the tumor grow.
  • Alleviating symptoms: CBD oil can work to alleviate some of the pain, discomfort, and anxiety your dog may be experiencing when grappling with Cushing’s disease. Additionally, CBD oil can directly help with the skin and fur-related symptoms of the disease by providing extra strength and support.
Best hemp oil for dogs
Hemp CBD oil is now becoming recognized worldwide as a safe and effective natural remedy for dogs with anxiety, allergies arthritis & endocrine disorders (Cushing’s Disease).

Aside from the benefits listed above, CBD oil can provide anti-inflammatory support while helping to expel free radicals from the body that may be exacerbating the disease.

Supplements For Cushing’s Disease

There are a number of supplements that can help with Cushing’s symptoms.


Feeding glandular meats or supplements may help manage your dog’s adrenal function.

Cushing's disease in dogs glandulars
Feeding a specific organ or gland can often help support the functioning of the corresponding organ in your dog’s body (e.g., adrenal, pituitary, etc.).

It may not be easy to get adrenal glands for your dog, but you can give a glandular supplement!


One of the top choices for natural Cushing’s treatment is a combination of melatonin and lignans.

This supplement combination offers an excellent natural treatment for both Cushing’s and Atypical Cushing’s disease in dogs. In fact, supplementing with melatonin and lignans can help your dog’s endocrine system return to normal.

Melatonin: helps balance and regulate hormones, maintains circadian rhythms and slow the growth of tumors. In Western medicine, melatonin is often used to treat canine alopecia, so you may notice your dog’s coat return to its normal thickness and luster.

Note: If melatonin makes your dog excessively sleepy, give melatonin only at night.

Lignans: Flax hull lignans or HMR lignans extracted from the Norwegian spruce tree convert to enterolactone. This acts as a phytoestrogen in the body and causes downregulation of estrogen production from the adrenal gland, thereby, helping to manage Cushing’s symptoms.

Lignans also lower estradiol by inhibiting aromatase enzymes and lower cortisol by inhibiting 3-beta HSD enzymes.

When purchasing lignans for your dog, look for a standardized product labeled “Flax Hull Lignans”.


There are natural remedies on the market specifically designed to help normalize the adrenal glands’ output of cortisol. Other herbs are helpful at detoxification.

  • Dandelion is well-known as a tonic for the liver, kidneys and adrenal glands and will help to normalize adrenal functioning.
  • Burdock is a cleansing and eliminating herb and is excellent at detoxifying the tissues and removing unwanted substances from the body.
  • Arsenicum helps treat excessive thirst.
  • Hepar Sulph works to heal irritated skin and Sulphur improves the overall condition of the skin.

Derived from lecithin, Phosphatidylserine may support hypothalamic‐pituitary‐adrenal function and help reduce cortisol levels naturally.

While all of these supplements are available online or at your local drugstore, be sure to ask your holistic vet about giving any of these natural supplements to your dog.

Final Thoughts on Natural Cushing’s Disease Treatments for Dogs

I hope now you can see that there’s realistic hope for your dog with Cushing’s Disease. While conventional medical treatments are useful–they are by no means the only option to care for your pet.

For pet owners looking for a more integrative, holistic management approach to their dog’s condition, always consider natural remedies first and foremost!

By combining a few simple changes at home using natural supplements, herbs and dietary adjustments, you can offset your dog’s Cushing’s symptoms and preserve his Quality of Life!

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