When to Euthanize a Dog with Cushing’s Disease

when to euthanize a dog with cushing's disease

If your beloved pet has this disease, you may be wondering when to euthanize a dog with Cushing’s Disease.

Cushing’s Disease is a difficult illness and requires lifelong management.

Your veterinarian will be able to provide many good options for managing your dog’s symptoms.

But ultimately, this disease will affect their quality of life and you many have to make a tough decision.

This choice is never easy as a pet owner.

So this article aims to walk you through the disease and explain when the right time may be to put your dog down.

What is Cushing’s Disease in Dogs?

when to euthanize a dog with cushing's disease

Cushing’s Disease in dogs is where too much cortisol is produced in their body.

Too much cortisol can have serious effects on your dog’s body. Cortisol is responsible for:

  • Combating stress
  • Weight management
  • Fighting infections

There are multiple causes of this disease.

Diagnosis of the cause will be the determining factor for your dog’s prognosis.

Pituitary Dependant

The most common cause of Cushing’s Disease is a tumor on your dog’s pituitary gland.

Pituitary tumors will cause too much of the hormone ACTH (adrenocorticotropic) to be produced. 

This overproduction is what causes your dog’s body to produce cortisol.

These tumors will either be malignant or benign.

And the symptoms your dog will experience depends on the size of their tumor.

Adrenal Dependent

Tumors on the adrenal glands are another cause of Cushing’s Disease.

Again, these tumors can be malignant or benign.

If they are benign, they can be removed and most likely cure your dog of this disease.

Unfortunately, there is not a good prognosis if the tumor is malignant.

Steroid Use

If your dog is on long term steroids, this can cause Cushing’s Disease.

This is often a complicated situation as your dog will have been put on steroids for a reason.

Your veterinarian will have to work a balance between treating the condition steroids are used for, and Cushing’s Disease.

Symptoms of Cushing’s Disease

when to euthanize a dog with cushing's disease

There are no distinguishing symptoms for Cushing’s Disease.

And this can delay in diagnosing your dog.

Here are the most common symptoms:

  • Drinking more 
  • Eating more
  • Peeing more
  • Losing their hair
  • Getting a pot belly
  • Skin is thinning
  • More tired
  • Panting a lot
  • Gets skin infections

How to Diagnose and Treat Cushing’s Disease

when to euthanize a dog with cushing's disease

The best way to diagnose your dog is to take them to your veterinarian.

They’ll be able to run a few tests to determine whether it’s Cushing’s Disease or something else.

Tests that they will run can include:

  • ACTH Stimulation Test – this tests how well your dog’s adrenal glands are working.
  • Abdominal Ultrasound – this will search for any tumors.
  • Experimental Steroids – this will test if your dog responds positively.

Once diagnosed, your veterinarian will work with you to create a treatment plan.

Treatment can vary from long term medication to surgery. 

If they require surgery, this will be to remove the tumor from their pituitary or adrenal gland.

Either way, a dog living with Cushing’s Disease will need check ups for the rest of their life.

When to Euthanize a Dog with Cushing’s Disease

The average life expectancy for a dog with Cushing’s Disease is three years.

However, it’s important to remember that this disease will affect each dog differently.

Whereas some dogs might manage well with medication, others may experience more painful side effects.

If your dog is suffering, you may decide that it’s time to put them to sleep.

No one will know your dog better than you, so it’s your responsibility to monitor their behavior for any changes.

It’s important to look out for any signs that they may be suffering.

Medication only helps deal with the side effects of Cushing’s Disease and doesn’t cure it.

As the disease progresses, their medication might stop being effective and some of their symptoms will begin to show again.

It may be the right time to seek medical advice about euthanazia. 

This will be an incredibly hard and emotional decision to make.

A veterinarian will be able to help you with this choice.

What to Expect When Euthanizing Your Dog

This is incredibly difficult for any pet owner to experience.

But educating yourself on what to expect can make the experience less stressful or scary.

You have the choice of euthanizing your dog at your veterinarians clinic or in the comfort of your own home.

Depending on the situation, a veterinarian may give your dog a sedative first.

This will relax your dog.

Next, they will administer the euthanazia medication – Pentobarbital (a seizure medication).

When given in large doses, this medication will make your dog go unconscious.

Their heart and brain will then stop functioning.

It’s important to remember that your pet will experience no pain throughout.

They will just drift into a peaceful sleep.


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