Taking care of a furry companion is a huge responsibility; you always need to keep an eye out for any odd behavior that could indicate your pet’s sick. This is particularly challenging since our pets can never tell us if they’re feeling under the weather. Apart from this, illnesses can be difficult to diagnose since their symptoms often overlap.

One such condition that typically affects dogs is Cushing’s disease. It occurs when the body overproduces a hormone called cortisol. Cortisol is stored and produced in the adrenal, small glands found on top of the dog’s kidneys. A body’s natural steroid, cortisol, helps regulate tissue structure, proper body weight, skin condition, and other health aspects. 

What are the symptoms of Cushing’s disease?

Cushing’s disease is more likely to affect some dog breeds than others and usually occurs in middle to old-aged dogs. It develops slowly and its early signs, unfortunately, are difficult to notice. Its symptoms include:

  • Hair loss
  • Increased appetite
  • Increased urination
  • Increased thirst
  • Fragile or thin skin
  • Excessive panting
  • Recurring skin infection
  • Enlarged abdomen causing a pot belly

How do you diagnose Cushing’s disease?

Diagnosing this illness can be difficult since there are several tests you need to consider. Each test has its own advantages and disadvantages, adding to the complexity of the disease. The most commonly used tests are:

  • Adrenocorticotropic stimulation test (ACTH Stim): You can use this test to screen for Cushing’s disease. It does not help determine whether the disease is adrenal or pituitary-dependent. 
  • Urine cortisol creatinine ratio (UCCR): This test isn’t specific to Cushing’s, and you’ll need to conduct further tests to determine the abnormality in UCCR.
  • Low-dose dexamethasone suppression test (LDDS): This is the most specific test since it can help determine whether a dog is suffering from pituitary-dependent or adrenal-dependent Cushing’s.

Treating Cushing’s Disease

The only way to permanently eliminate Cushing’s disease is to remove the adrenal tumor if it hasn’t spread. Unfortunately, this surgery is quite complex and may cause further issues. 

Hence, many people opt for medications to treat this disease in their dogs. The problem with these medications is that they result in side effects, such as reduced or poor appetite, lack of energy, vomiting, weakness, and other serious issues, such as collapse, bloody diarrhea, and adrenal gland deterioration. 

Due to this, it’s better to consider holistic management for the disease. Here are the different treatments you can consider:


Food is the most essential thing that you can switch up when managing your dog’s Cushing’s disease. You should opt for a fresh, whole food diet, ideally with raw and organic foods and pasture-raised meats. Here are a few tips you should keep in mind:

  • Give abundant fruits and vegetables
  • Low-calcium foods to prevent bladder stones
  • Low-fat foods to avoid pancreatitis 
  • High protein foods to avoid muscle wasting


There are several dog Cushings disease natural treatment options you can consider. The most popular are melatonin and lignans; the former helps regulate hormones, provide antioxidants, and maintain circadian rhythms while the latter downregulates estrogen production.

You can also consider glandular supplements, which can help your dog’s adrenal glands. These supplements can provide your dog with valuable nutrients, such as amino acids, minerals like iodine, iron, phosphorus, zinc, and copper, and other health benefits like good brain health, healthy heart function, and better digestion.

Acupuncture and Acupressure

Based on ancient Chinese medicine, acupuncture and acupressure are excellent complementary therapies and can help reduce inflammation and regulate your dog’s endocrine system. Your pet is most likely to require acupuncture every couple of months to improve its blood flow, which boosts the oxygenation of tissues. 

Since acupuncture relaxes muscles wherever a needle is inserted, it relieves pain overall and locally. This stimulation releases naturally occurring anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving compounds, which decreases the level of medications your dog requires. 


There are a number of homeopathic remedies that can help relieve the symptoms of Cushing’s disease. Of course, your homeopath will be able to guide you better, but here’s a list that can help with the directions:

  • Hepar sulfuris calcareum: liver issues, skin issues, abdominal bloating or distention 
  • Pituitarum posterior: assists with issues in the pituitary glands
  • Quercus robur: helps with breathlessness, varicose veins, and abdominal swelling
  • Chelidonium majus: digestive, liver, and bile issues
  • Sulfur: assists with liver and skin issues and frequent and painful urination
  • Arsenicum album: digestive issues, excessive thirst, and skin problems


Various Chinese and Western herbs can help relieve your dog’s symptoms and reduce cortisol levels. These herbs include Si Miao San, Long Dan Xie Gan, eight treasures, Ophiopogon root, kelp, burdock root, nettle, dandelion root, Siberian ginseng, garlic, bacopa, milk thistle, holy basil leaf, chaste teaberry, Ashwagandha root, turmeric, and prickly ash bark, to name a few.

A herbalist would be able to guide you better on which herbs are recommended for your dog and their doses. You should also avoid borage leaf and licorice since these herbs are known to stimulate adrenal activity. 

Final Thoughts

It’s difficult seeing your dog in pain or suffering from a condition. Getting the right treatment at the right time is critical to ensure your furry companion lives a long and healthy life. Exploring the holistic treatments above is an excellent start if you want a solution to manage your dog’s symptoms.

Whatever therapy you decide should be guided by your dog’s doctor. They’ll be able to advise you better based on your dog’s condition and the stage of the disease. Regardless, these holistic treatments are an excellent option to explore, even if you’re inclined towards traditional therapies.