Canine Cushing’s Disease – Change The Diet?

If you are reading this blog than its for certain that you are concerned about the health of your dog and ways to help stall, treat or fight a disease using diet and common sense.  So many diseases are becoming more and more prevalent in this day and age that it can make your head spin.  One such disease is Canine Cushing’s Disease.  Many have never heard of it before BUT with the large number of dogs that it affects as well as its two year life expectancy prediction, it is an

Cushings can be caused by a tumor on the adrenal glands located on the kidneys (courtesty of

important condition for all dog owners to be aware of.

Cushing’s Disease is also known as hyperadrenocorticism.  It is caused by an excessive production of corticosteroids in the dog’s body usually caused by a tumor on either the pituitary or adrenal gland.  Symptoms of Cushing’s include excessive thirst, increased appetite, increased urination, hair loss or skin rashes and panting.  The skin is one of the first things affected and there can be unidentifiable lumps, skin thinning and skin infections present in a Cushing’s dog.  Differences can also be seen in the dog’s appearance – a bloated belly, muscle weakeness, hyperpigmentation of the skin and a bony appearance in the head are all possible signs of the disease.  (  It generally hits dogs that are in middle to older age with the usual age of presentation around the 9 year mark.  It can affect any breed but is more common in Poodles, GSD’s, terriers, Golden Retrievers and Labradors.

Left untreated, Cushing’s can lead to other problems such as diabetes, pancreatitis, heart disease, seizures, kidney failure and other disorders and all too often the symptoms of Cushing’s are chalked up to the normal aging process in a dog.  It is also possible to CAUSE Cushing’s disease in a dog by the over medication of steroids for allergies and the like (take note all dog owners who have their dog on a constant low dose of prednisone to control itching….)

Some Cushing’s originates from the pituitary gland which is on the underside of the brain (courtesy of

Traditional medical treatment is generally necessary though there are supplements and herbs that can help such as fish oil, dandelion and magnolia bark to name a few.  One thing that can be of utmost importance though, is diet.  It is worthwhile to note that Cushing’s Disease is an illness that rarely affects dogs in the wild.  This leads to the assumption that the disease itself is somehow attributable to human intervention.  Namely – diet and medications.

Diet for a dog with Cushing’s Disease should be the optimal diet for canine health – which means a diet of natural ACTUAL food.  The diet should be high in protien, have low levels of fat, low amounts of fiber and a low level of purines.  Protien?  No problem – there is no better natural source of protein than plain old meat.  Remember that commercial kibbles by and large do not contain much meat so often their protien levels are skewed as a result.  The healthiest proteins for a dog are those from natural whole food sources such as actual raw meaty bones.  Keeping fat low is important but remember that dogs need fat for energy so don’t over do it – leaner meats with added veggies will keep your fat levels minimal but adequate.  Finding foods low in purines is slightly more difficult – you find purines in all proteins BUT all are not created equal.  Items like beef and pork liver and kidney as well as sardines and some fishes should be avoided.  Moderate purine foods include chicken, beef (non-organ meat), turkey, tripe, rabbit, pork and lamb.   Organ meats will always have a higher purine amount than non-organ meats with the exception of tripe.  Overall, avoiding most seafood as well as beef and pork liver is key.  Little has been done on the effect of cooking and purines but initial experiments have shown that cooking actually breaks down the purines making them easier to absorb and therefore worse for your Cushing’s dog. (

Feeding a raw natural diet is your best option with a dog that either has Cushing’s Disease or is showing early

Bloated stomach, hair loss and swayback are among some of the physical characteristics of the disease

symptoms.  The most important reason for this is because you are in total control of what your dog is eating – you don’t have to guess at ingredients and what they mean and how much of a certain item is actually in their food.  Another reason is because any kibbled or processed dog food is going to be cooked and therefore, arguably, have purines that are absorbed more rapidly and more completely than those found in raw meats.  By sticking to lower purine meats like turkey, tripe, chicken or cornish game hen, going easy on amounts of liver or kidney and avoiding fish like sardines, you can feed a healthy diet that will boost your dog’s immune system, lower stress, enhance all bodily functions and not aggravate their disease.  It is fine to feed, in lesser amounts, the moderately higher purine foods such as beef, pork, lamb and rabbit occasionally for variety but adding more than a minimal amount of livers or kidneys would not be advised.

The core to the Cushing dog’s diet should consist of items like Just Turkey, Just Chicken and our Beef Tripe and Lamb Tripe.  To keep organ intake to the bare minimum feed mostly chicken backs, chicken necks or turkey necks and alternate with the mixes above.  Other additions add in moderate amounts only, to maintain the lowest purine diet that you can.  Adding extra organs would be unwise and remember that RAW is the way to go!   While it may not make the Cushing’s Disease disappear, feeding your dog a food that is going to not aggravate his disease and that you have complete and utter control over will help to keep your dog strong and fighting.  Never giving up is the best thing you can do for your pup!