Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Yellow Labrador Retriever with Cushing's Disease

Readers E-mail - Patricia Writes:


Last spring I took my 6 1/2 year old female Yellow Lab to the vet for routine blood work for a dental cleaning. That afternoon, my Vet called and said my dog had unusually high amounts of Alkaline Phosphatase in her blood which might indicate Cushing's Disease. Further testing revealed early stages of the Pituitary Dependent disease. My Vet immediately started treatment with Lysodren. Initially she was almost overdosed and they almost induced Addison's disease.

My problem is that my dog hasn't been the same since. I feel like the drug is doing more harm than good. When we initiated treatment she was asymptonmatic and now I feel like she has aged considerably. She has tremors, fears going down the stairs, is scared of almost anything and has difficulty walking. She used to be a healthy active dog; swimming 2-3 hours a day, walking 1 1/2 hours each morning and playing ball twice a day for at least 20 minutes. Now she gets tired easily and has lost a lot of her playfulness.

Am I killing her? Should I take her off the medication and just hope the disease takes a long time to progress? I am more concerned about her Quality of life not the Quantity of years. I love her very much and I feel in my heart she is suffering more from the treatment. My husband does not want her to be medicated any longer. He has seen a definite decline in her all over well being and fears we are killing her. I have discussed this with the Vet and they said she isn't even suppressed yet and they are now questioning if the disease may be the lesser of the 2 evils. I feel like my dog is being used as a LAB rat (no pun intended), Thank you for any advice you may offer.



Hi Patricia, Thanks for writing. I am very sorry to hear about the problems you’re having with your Labrador Retriever. Your letter breaks my heart.

My understanding of Cushing's Disease is that it is caused by the production of an excess of corticosteroids, with symptoms of the disease usually coming on very gradually. With the symptoms coming on gradually, the owner often attributes the changes to "old age."

Some symptoms of Cushing's Disease can include: an increase in frequency of urination, large consumptions of water, a voracious appetite, pot-bellied in appearance, changes in hair coat and hair loss, weight gain, lethargy, increase panting and decreased interaction with owners. The disease usually affects middle-aged to older dogs.

Lysodren works by destroying cells of the adrenal gland that produce the corticosteroid hormones. Lysodren has been in use for canine Cushing’s disease for decades, with most veterinarians having extensive experience with the use of this drug for pituitary dependent Cushing's Disease and with the monitoring tests the use to prevent any side effect difficulties. Unfortunately, the drug can have serious side effects and therefore regular monitoring of the blood needs to be performed.

There are two phases used in the treatment of Cushing’s disease with Lysodren: first is an induction phase which helps to gain control of the disease. The second being a lower dosed maintenance phase. The second phase will lasts for the animal’s entire life.

I am sure you have done plenty of research on the disease and treatment but I will list some further sites for information at the end of this letter.

Continue Reading...

I am also listing some side effects of the use of Lysodren, some being the same as what you state seen in your Labrador. Anorexia, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, dizziness, appetite loss and a decrease in water consumption.

Pituitary Cushing's disease cannot be cured, but with some of the treatments available, it can prolong your Labradors quality of life and keep her around for years longer.

If Cushing’s Disease is not treated, the disease can progress to life-threatening conditions including kidney failure, neurological disorders, failure of the liver, diabetes, congestive heart failure, and your Labrador can also become more susceptible to infections.

As far as you asking if you should stop the medication, I can not give you an answer on that. That is a decision you and your family must make. It's a very difficult situation, but only you can make such a decision. What I will do however is advised what I would do.

I would sit down again with my veterinarian and discuss how I feel about the medication and how you feel that the medication is making your Labrador suffer more from it. I would also ask about other forms of treatment then Lysodren. I have heard of another drug called Anipryl (selegiline). It is only effective in cases where Cushing's Disease is caused by a tumor in the pituitary gland. One advantage to the use of Anipryl is that it has less potential for harmful side effects and for risk of causing hypoadrenocorticism (Addison's disease).

I would definitely explore the different options with medication, if I felt my Labradors were suffering from present treatment and would probably seek another opinion from a second veterinarian if his only choice of drug treatment was Lysodren. If I really felt my Labrador was continually suffering from the treatments and medications and believed that they weren't helping, I would probably stop administering the medication. That would only be if I felt I exhausted all other options for my Labrador Retriever.

As for you feeling that your Labrador is being used as a "Lab" rat, I don't believe so, as this is the most popular treatment with dog's with Cushing's.

I hope I have helped you somewhat Patricia. I am listing some further sites for information for you. My heart goes out to you and your family. If you have further questions, don't hesitate to write and please keep me informed of the decisions you make and how your Labrador Retriever is doing. (Yahoo group of others wanting to learn more about Cushing's)

Patricia (Readers) Response:

Thank you so much for your heartfelt letter and reassurance. I think from the beginning of Haley's diagnosis I have been in shock. My dog was always healthy and happy and extremely active. When you go in for routine blood work and come out with another diagnosis that requires lifelong treatment it is a scary thing; especially since I take my Labradors to the Vet for preventative maintenance regularly. It is hard when you do everything you are suppose to and then you feel like you have failed your dog somehow.

I appreciate your reassurance about the Lysodren. It was literally thrown at me so fast, I felt like there were no options. I had no idea that this drug had been used extensively for several years. I do feel better about that. I was concerned that maybe Haley was being used experimentally.

My only other question: how much will this treatment extend her life? My vet says the books say on the average 2 years. She is only 7 and was diagnosed by accident with no symptoms. My vet says it is usually detected later in life between ages 10-14. So, is it possible my dog will live to an older age of at least 10 or will the Lysodren cause problems and shorten her life? I guess I am concerned about long term use.

Thank you so much for your help and advice. You are the only person who has replied to my concerns and I thank you so much for your genuine care. I know that any labradors you have in your life are blessed that they are in your presence. Much love and thanks!

My Answer:

I'm glad I could be of some help to you and deepest thanks for your kind words.

Your vet is correct with Cushing's Disease usually being detected later in life. I'm not sure with what the "books" say as per average length of life with treatment.

As far as your question goes in regards to Lysodren shortening Haley's life: For my limited knowledge on Lysodren it's hard for me to give you an answer. Reactions to treatment are different in each case. What works for one Labrador Retriever, might not for the next.

I have read plenty of good reviews from dog owners that have used Lysodren for the disease and prolonged their dog's life for years, as well as some bad ones with owners not being happy with the use of the drug and the side effects.

I have found some more information on other owners of dog's with Cushing's Disease and the use of Lysodren and Anipryl for the disease :

Please read through both of these sites listed, as I believe the may be of great help to you. They both have concerns from owners with the use of Lysodren.

I am here for you Patricia and will continue to help with Haley's problems. Just keep me updated with any changes and treatment as I will advise you of any further information I can find out about the disease and medications.

Much love to you and Haley

The information given here is to help you learn more about your Labrador Retriever and not to replace your veterinarian's advice. Disclaimer

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Lysodren November 19, 2010 10:55 PM  


The theme of your blog is very beautiful and the article is written very well, I will continue to focus on your article.Really I got some new ideas about Cushing's Disease.The thought you have shared really appreciative.

Anonymous,  June 14, 2011 9:39 PM  

My female yellow lab was just diagnosed with Cushings. She is 12 years old. I thought she was in good health, but routine blood tests showed high alkaline phosphate levels. Normal is 5-130 and Casey's was at 720. She drinks a lot of water, and is stiff getting up. I just thought it was old age. After a discussion with the Vet, we decided not to treat since she is otherwise happy and in good health. We still walk every day. The Vet warned of the side effects of treatment. Given her age, we think it's best to just give her the best life she can have and enjoy every day. Good luck to you!

Anonymous,  July 18, 2013 9:37 PM  

My 11 year old dog was recently diagnosed with Cushions disease but he shows no signs. He's now on Trilostane, and Denosyl. I've always fed him very healthy foods with no byproducts or grains. Also give him Glucosamine Chondroitin, Salmon oil, and Salmon Treats with all the Omegas. He was just re-tested and the results are very positive. Try and have the vet place him on Trilostane and Denosyl. Also, stop the medication if your dog has crazy side effects from the drug. If your vet has not mentioned other medications ask why? You may need a new vet. Get a 2nd opinion, have your vet send all his medical records to another vet for review. I'm trying to understand the disease. You sound like you really love your dog and trying to do everyting to be proactive. I understand how you feel and I hope me getting on this blog tonight has helped you in some sort of way. May GOD Bless You!

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