Lysodrine for Cushing's Disease in Dogs

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Information and natural remedies for the treatment of cushing's disease.

By Tess Thompson

The body, regardless of whether it is your own or your pet’s, is an extraordinary collection of organs and systems that interact with each other. This complex system is kept in balance by the production of enzymes and hormones that are secreted by different glands and other organs. Any disturbance in this, caused by injury, illness or advancing age, leads to organ dysfunction and major disturbances in appetite, water consumption and appearance. Many times, drugs used to treat one disease causes or exacerbates another.

Cushing’s syndrome in dogs is one such disorder that is caused by an excess of cortisol, an endocrine hormone produced by the adrenal cortex. The most common cause of increased production is pituitary adenoma, adrenal hyperplasia or an increased production of adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) due to lung cancer.

Cortisol is normally produced by the adrenal cortex in response to ACTH. A tumor in the pituitary gland leads to the release of abnormal amounts of ACTH, a condition specifically known as Cushing’s disease. Cushing’s syndrome, on the other hand, refers to the continuous production of ACTH due to an inability of the pituitary gland to respond to negative feedback relating to high levels of cortisol in the blood.

Adrenal neoplasm is usually treatable by surgery. On the other hand, pituitary-dependent Cushing’s has to be treated with pharmaceutical drugs, as surgery is ruled out due to the delicate location of the gland in the brain. Mitotane, marketed under the trade name of Lysodren, is a medication used for treating rare cases of carcinoma in the adrenal cortex. It is also used to treat pituitary dependent canine Cushing’s disease.

Lysodren is similar to chemotherapeutic drugs and works to destroy a part of the adrenal gland that produces cortisol, namely the outer layer (adrenal cortex). Initially a large dose is administered, which is later reduced to small daily or weekly doses. Administration of the drug must be followed by regular periodic tests to monitor the drug’s effect. In addition, the dangers and benefits of the drug must be weighed and evaluated.

Almost 10% of dogs with Cushing’s syndrome also have hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) and glycosuria (high levels of sugar in the urine). This is mainly because Cushing’s is known to neutralize the effect of insulin. Dogs on Lysodren may require a reduction in insulin dosage. This therefore necessitates simultaneous monitoring of both diseases.

Known side effects of lysodren include anorexia, lethargy, vomiting and diarrhea. Too much destruction of the adrenal tissue may cause Addison’s disease, a disorder caused by low levels of cortisol. This may necessitate supplemental cortisol, which too must be strictly monitored.

Cushing’s is actually not totally curable and many dog owners do not want to cause further suffering to the already hassled pet. Complementary and alternative treatments that have a holistic approach and are more empathetic and noninvasive are often chosen modes of treatment.

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