We all know when there is something drastically wrong with our pets. They may not be able to speak to us, but they sure do let us know in other ways.
For us the symptoms came on pretty quick and our concern level started to rise. We all hopped into the car to drive to the emergency animal hospital, hoping to find out what is going on.
Once we are all checked in, the vet took a thorough history and took some blood, so he could run some tests.
Hours later, the vet came back to tell me that my dog has cushings disease. It was just a difficult thing to hear. Nobody wants to hear that their dog has any type of disease.
Now that we had the diagnosis, the next question was, what does that mean. Obviously I had heard of cushings before, because my friend’s dog had it and died not long after the diagnosis. That, of course, stuck in my mind and made me very concerned.
The vet explain that Cushings it is an excess of cortisol being produced in the body called “hyperadrenocorticism” and it is the most common endocrine disorder that affects dogs.
The main cause of this hyperadrenocorticism is a beign tumor on the pituitary gland. 85% of Cushings cases are caused by this type of tumor.
The other tumor, can be a tumor that is on the adrenal gland, but this only makes up 15-20% of all Cushings cases.
One of the tests they can run is a low-dose dexamethasone suppression test (LDDST) which is the most common test in diagnosing Cushings Disease.
Unfortunately, there is not one definitive test that tells us the dog definitely has Cushings. They rely on ultrasounds and blood tests to try there best to determine if the dog does in fact have Cushings based on there symptoms.
To Treat or Not to treat?
Boo’s results came back fairly definitive that he has Cushings. The next big decision was whether we were going to treat this disease or not.
Boo was already pushing 14 and we really weren’t sure what we were going to do. I thing part of the difficult decision was his age of course, and as we all know the cost of treating any disease does cross your mind.
At the time when we took him in to the vet, his symptoms were :gorging of his food, hungry all the time, his hair was to the point where you could see his skin.
His skin was pretty much see through. Not being able to hold his pee nearly as long as he used to, was also one of his symptoms.
Oddly the biggest symptom for him was and is the constant whining to eat all the time. Almost to the point where we started to think “Oh my god we are starving him.”
After a long discussion with the vet, we talked about what the actual treatment would be if we decided to treat the Cushings. We really weren’t sure if we wanted to go that route. First we needed all the information to make an informed decision for him and for us.
The vet said the typical treatment was a drug called Trilostane. This drug has serious side effects. He started listing off all off the side effects Boo could encounter. Some things on the list were : Vomiting, diarrhea, loss of energy, weakness etc. The list went on and on.
For us the decision was easy, his symptoms were not terrible, they were things we could manage for now. Due to Boo’s age, we decided not to treat his Cushings. The vet said it was up to us and there was really no right or wrong answer at this point.
He then let us take Boo home.
Living with Cushings
Now that we had decided not to treat the cushings, we really were unsure what was a head for us. The vet said that dogs can survive for a while with this disease, or the opposite and go quickly, each dog is different.
The one thing he did tell us, was that most dogs don’t die from Cushings itself, they die from all the complications associated with having this disease. Some of these issues can be: skin infections, pancreatitis, seizures, diabetes, pot-belly appearance and thinning of there hair etc.
So far, Boo has a few of these symptoms. He has pancreatitis, thinning hair and he did have a skin infection earlier that we hadn’t attributed to this diagnosis til much later.
Most of these symptoms do not affect his everyday life, except of course the hunger and having to pee more often.
Honestly the hunger symptom is the worst. I know what you’re thinking, that doesn’t sound that bad…Envision 4:30am wake up with a little dog walking all over your legs GET UP ! GET UP MOM I’m starving.
Throughout the day, if one of us is at home, Boo knows to the exact minute when it’s his feeding time. If you are busy for even a few minutes, he will literally sit and whine until you feed him. He is relentless!
The tough part is you feel so bad for him, and you feel like your are a horrible parent, but then you realize it is just the disease.
Unfortunately, one of the other symptoms that is extremely difficult to have to go through is seizures. Boo has had 2 seizures in the past year. According to the vet if they start to happen closer together, that is when we need to worry. Seizures that happen close together can have a serious risk of causing neurological damage to your dog.
After having a discussion about what our plan would be if anything like that was to start to happening more frequently, we would not let Boo suffer through that.
Luckily for us, to this point we haven’t had to make that decision yet.
Hope and Defying the Odds
Our boy Boo was diagnosed with having Cushings Disease more than 2 1/2 years ago.
While doing my own research, I have found that the longest life expectancy of a dog after being diagnosed with Cushings Disease, is somewhere around 30-36 months.
For us, our boy is defying the odds to live as long as possible. He is already at the point, where he is reaching that unexpected milestone. Getting to the 30-month mark has been exciting.
We still get to wake up to see his happy face every day and cuddle him as much as we can.
Through the months, we have seen a physical change in the little guy. He is very small and bony, almost looking puppy like. He has also started to have a bit of the pot-bellied appearance that they had spoke about.
Enjoying every moment
Since the first moments of the vet telling me my dog has Cushings Disease, to this point now, it has certainly been a journey.
At times Cushings can be a very tough battle to go through. What we have kept in mind while going through this battle, is that no matter how long we have our Boo for, we are going to enjoy every moment with him.
We never know how long Boo’s battle with this disease will be, but we have been lucky to have him a lot longer than most.
Boo is coming up on 16 years old this year and Cushings or no Cushings, he has remained our baby. No matter when we have to finally say goodbye to him, we know that we given him his best life.
Love you BOO! ♥♥