Labradors are beloved for their friendly nature, boundless energy, and loyalty. As with any breed, they have specific health concerns that owners should be aware of. One such condition is Cushing’s Disease. In this guide, we delve deep into what Cushing’s Disease is, its symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and care strategies for Labradors affected by it.
What is Cushing’s Disease?
Cushing’s Disease, also known as hyperadrenocorticism, occurs when a dog’s body produces too much cortisol, a crucial hormone for managing stress, weight, blood sugar levels, and more. This overproduction can arise from issues within the adrenal glands themselves or due to excessive stimulation from the pituitary gland.
- Pituitary-dependent Cushing’s Disease (PDH): This is the most common type, wherein a benign tumor on the pituitary gland leads to excessive cortisol production.
- Adrenal-dependent Cushing’s Disease: Caused by a tumor on one of the adrenal glands.
- Iatrogenic Cushing’s Disease: This arises due to prolonged exposure to high doses of oral corticosteroid medications.
Cushing’s Disease manifests itself in various ways, with some signs being more overt than others. Common symptoms in Labradors include:
- Increased thirst and urination
- Ravenous appetite
- Hair loss and thinning skin
- Pot-bellied appearance
- Reduced energy
- Recurring skin infections
If you suspect your Labrador has Cushing’s, visit the vet. The disease’s non-specific symptoms can mimic other conditions, so a thorough examination is essential.
- Blood Tests: Elevated liver enzymes and cholesterol might suggest Cushing’s.
- ACTH Stimulation Test: This is the most common diagnostic test where a synthetic hormone is administered, followed by blood tests to measure cortisol levels.
- Dexamethasone Suppression Test: Measures how well the dog’s body responds to a synthetic steroid.
- Ultrasound: Helps visualize any adrenal tumors.
Treatment for Cushing’s Disease in Labradors varies depending on the cause.
- Medication: Drugs like trilostane (Vetoryl) or mitotane (Lysodren) help regulate cortisol production.
- Surgery: If an adrenal tumor is the cause, surgical removal might be the best option.
- Radiation: For pituitary tumors, which are typically inoperable due to their location, radiation is an alternative.
- Reducing Steroid Medication: For Iatrogenic Cushing’s, gradual withdrawal of the causative medication under a vet’s guidance is needed.
It’s crucial to understand that while Cushing’s Disease can be managed, it often cannot be cured. Regular check-ups and ongoing medication are typically necessary.
Caring for a Labrador with Cushing’s Disease
Having a Labrador diagnosed with Cushing’s can be daunting, but with proper care and attention, they can continue to lead a good quality life.
Regular Vet Visits
Once diagnosed, you’ll need to visit the vet regularly to monitor the disease and adjust medications.
A balanced, high-quality diet can aid in managing symptoms. Some vets recommend a low-carb, high-protein diet. Additionally, there are natural supplements and herbal remedies that have been shown to help with relief from Cushing’s symptoms such as as melatonin and lignans which you can learn about at Prana Pets.
While your Lab may have reduced energy, gentle, regular exercise is vital for maintaining muscle tone and overall health.
Labradors with Cushing’s may develop thin skin, making them prone to injuries and infections. Regularly check for sores, and consider protective clothing or sunscreens for outdoor activities.
Given the increased thirst and urination associated with Cushing’s, ensure constant access to clean water and more frequent bathroom breaks. Use pee pads or dog diapers if incontinence becomes an issue.
With proper treatment, Labradors with Cushing’s Disease can enjoy a quality life for many years post-diagnosis. However, it’s essential to be prepared for ongoing veterinary costs and time investments.
Cushing’s Disease in Labradors, though challenging, isn’t a death sentence. Understanding the disease, staying vigilant about its management, and maintaining a close relationship with your veterinarian can ensure your Labrador continues to wag its tail happily for years to come.
Remember, the love and dedication you offer will undoubtedly be reciprocated by your loyal companion, making every effort worth it.