Archive for the ‘Cushing’ Category

Adrenal Disease in Dogs and Cats

Wednesday, August 18th, 2010

Cushing and Addison’s Disease

The Dr. You in us all, including our pets is working away non stop 24/7. Included in the Dr. You scheme of things is a range of glands known in medical terms as the ‘endocrine system’ The endocrine system supplies a range of hormones into the bloodstream and part of that system includes the adrenal glands.

These adrenal glands normally work efficiently but if either of the two glands produce too much or too little of the desired hormones then the health conditions can be debilitating.

If the adrenal glands produce too much then they are know to be ‘hyper’ thus the term Cushing’s disease (hyperadrenocortism).

On the other hand if they produce too little it is known as ‘hypo’ and thus Addison disease (hypoadrenocortism).

What Happens when these gland malfunction?

The hormones produced by these glands regulate the use of proteins, fats and carbohydrates. Which in turn help to maintain a proper balance of water, salt and potassium in the body.

One of the main hormones produced is cortisol which also contributes to maintaining blood sugars, muscle development and tissue repair.  Cortisol also delivers a rush of adrenalin in stressful situations which will release stored energy in the body and allow the animal to react accordingly.

The story starts to get complicated because the adrenal gland is actually controlled by another gland called the ‘pituitary gland’ which signals the adrenal gland to produce more or less Cortisol.


Two factors cause this problem and they are both cancers. The more common of the two is a small benign tumor in the pituitary gland. This tumor interferes and causes too much cortisol to be produced. The other cause is a tumor in either or both the adrenal glands and have the same effect – producing too much cortisol.

Symptoms of Cushing Disease

Bloated abdomen, thinning hair coat, drinking and urinating to excess, reduced muscle strength, interferes with normal blood clotting and the body’s ability to ward off infection.

Episodes of panting due to the weakened muscle can accompany the problem and your animal friend may be prone to falling. A reduced ability to break down fat may also be present.

Conventional Treatment

If the pituitary gland has a tumor, then drugs are administered  that supposedly destroy the part of the adrenal gland that is producing too much cortisol. The objective is to manage the problem rather than cure.  Malignant tumours in the adrenal glands is another matter and often surgery is conducted to remove the offending growth.

Alternative Treatments

Usually involves a number of complementing approaches which reinforce each  other.  Holistic Diet is imperative, not so as a treatment, but to provide the foundations of good health.


Low fat, low protein highly digestible diets are a must in terms of giving our animal friends the best possible chance. The less processing the better thus Robbie’s Holistic Cuisine which is mainly dehydrated ingredients is ideal in this situation.

Homeopathic approaches include:

Corticotrophin (ACTH) 30c – This hormone helps to reduce the excess of fluid and generally improves adrenal function.

Cortisone 30c – This hormone will assist in counteracting over production of crude protein.

Thallium Acetas 30c – This remedy has an effect on skin and hair helping to restore a healthy coat.

(Note: Over use of steroid hormones can produce the same results as the disease itself and Nux Vomica and Thuja may help in overcoming this. A homeopathic vet should be consulted – If you are unable to find one please contact us and we can arrange for an internet consultation with Alan Slater – our homeopathic vet).

Herbal Approaches

Herbal approaches are limited in the treatment of Cushing’s other than providing tonic support for the various affected organs.  As a result of the increased urination, potassium is leeched from the body and nettles, dandelion root, garlic and burdock can help replace potassium and support the liver and digestive system.

Liver HeProtect and Digestive Tonic are the 2 world herbs we would recommend for this problem.

Kelp (seaweed) is beneficial for maintaining iodine and other trace minerals.
Avoid Licorice, borage leaf – these stimulate adrenal activity


Phosphatidyl-serine – is an active ingredient of lecithin which naturally suppresses cortisol production


The cause of Addison’s is unknown but it is generally considered to be associated with an immune system problem.  Cancer of the lymphatic system or systemic infections have been related to the problem as has over use of steroids or sudden withdrawal from the drug.

Symptoms of Addison’s Disease

Weight loss, occasional vomiting, poor appetite, weight loss, decreased energy and stamina. Degeneration of the adrenal glands is not reversible but progression can be delayed with diet and proper nutrients.

Conventional Treatment

Supplement with synthetic cortisol.

Alternative Treatments


Foods with excess potassium should be avoided. High quality, easily digested protein should be included. Robbie’s Holistic Cuisine is also well suited for the reasons stated above but is also low in potassium.

Homeopathic approaches

Arsenicum [Ars]
This is the most homeopathic of all remedies to this disease. Both the disease and drug have nerve depression, gastric irritation, general debility, feeble heart action and tendency to vomit. The skin symptoms have also a curious similarity;

The disease, though considered an incurable one, may have its development arrested by the proper remedy.

Among other remedies to be thought of are: Thuja; Natrum muriaticum, which especially corresponds to the symptoms, muscular fatigue, indigestion, melancholia, etc., so often present at the onset of the disease; Belladonna, Calcarea carbonica, Iodine and Phosphorus. Arsenicum iodatum is also especially worthy of a trial. Tuberculinum may also be well indicated.

Herbal Approaches

Herbisone – this World herbal product is very well suited to Addison disease.

Licorice, borage leaf – these stimulate adrenal activity.

Siberian Ginseng - for reducing the impact of stress.

Spirulina - is also well suited this problem although is considered a whole food rather than a herb (1 spoonful per 4lbs (2kg) pounds of bodyweight).