To treat or not to treat Cushing's Disease

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dog in grass

We had a heart-breaking question on one of our Cushing's Disease posts that we thought worth sharing here. The answer is from our esteemed veterinary consultant, Dr. Heather Carleton.


I have a minature schnauzer, Kizzie. She turned 11 in Feb. She was diagnosed with epilepsy at 3 and enlarged heart. She has been on 3 meds 2 times a day since. She has been to the vet hospital 3 times with pancreatitis and has cost me about $5,000 in medical bills. A couple of months ago she was diagnosed with Cushings.

I love her very much, but am at the breaking point financially with her. She is a member of the family, but for now I have chosen not to treat her with the additional expensive meds that the vet wants to put her on. Do you know the life expectancy of a dog with cushings...with no treatment?

She has just started loosing her fur in the past 2 weeks. She seems tired a lot and a bit weak, but other than that she is in good spirits and is not wimpering or anything like she is in any pain. From what I've read, the best to expect is 20-30 months...with meds...can't find anything out about without meds...If you know, I'd appreciate it!



In general, a dog with untreated Cushing's can actually live as long as a treated dog, but will likely have more side effects (over time) from the disease if not treated. Usually treatment for Cushing's is not even recommended unless the dog has clinical signs because treatment does not necessarily change their overall life span - it just keeps them from being polyuric (urinating a lot), polydypsic (drinking a lot), losing their hair, etc.

However, in this case, if the dog is showing signs of weakness, the Cushing's may be having a negative impact on the dog's heart condition, which would be a reason to treat her if financially possible.

Regardless of whether or not this dog is treated, I would monitor her heart disease, especially if weakness persists or she starts coughing.

[from Laura: my heart goes out to you and your dog. Thank you for sharing your real life story]

Note: As with any of your pet's health conditions, if you are worried about your pet, talk to your veterinarian - the internet is no substitution for an in-person visit.