Archived Message
Cushing's Disease

by Nick Zorn

We just lost our dear 11-year old Tammy. She had been a super pet therapy dog for the last five years. We first noticed last fall that she seemed always hot (hasseling) and bloated. Also, her eyes eventually came to seem "dull" .. sometimes almost glazed. She was diagnosed with Cushing's Disease and the origin was determined to be petuitary. It seems that the disease causes a dramatic rise in something called "cortisol" (that may be spelled wrong). The treatment involves the use of steroids and is paced by the cortisol level. The major problem seems to be getting lab results back in time to be useful and finding the lysodren (another drug used in the treatment and may be mispelled) for the treatment. Also, this last drug is made for humans and comes only in strong doses so it is difficult to break it down sufficiently for a small dog. It is important to recognize this disease early, BEFORE THE DOG IS SO FAR GONE THAT LARGE DOSES ARE NEEDED! The test to determine whether Cushings is causing the problem costs about $50 here in Florida. We plan to start a memorial "Tammy Fund" with our local vet to help those who can't afford the cost of the test. Take good care of those lovable little guys, they're precious!! Nick Zorn


Boy do I know about Vet bills!!!! My Travis was diagnosed with Shaking Puppy Syndrome(approx.$1500) and my Harlee Dee was diagnosed with Cataracts(both eyes $1300). I'm learning so much from everyone here I just hope I can shed some light for others.
-Karen Kalamaras

Nick, first let me extend my deepest sympathies for the loss of your Tammy. It is so hard to lose an animal companion, there are no words to describe it or help with the pain. I am sorry.

I am lucky. My Amanda is 16+ and was diagnosed with Cushings at about age 9. She is a perfect example that if caught early, the disease can be controlled and they can live a long time. Cushings is also a human disease. Amanda's problem was found during normal pre-operation blood test. I was lucky and went to a veterinary university about an hour and 1/2 drive away from here and then for a couple of years went to an internal specialist.

When under control, the disease will not cause death. More than likely some of the medications used over long term will more likely cause death. Which is why we have now taken Amanda off of prednisone, and she is now only on the lysodrene.

My advice to everyone is that every year, when you get vacine shot renewals, you also think about other testing, especially on dogs over about 8 years old. Blood workup to test kidneys, liver, etc, and I even have a semi-annual EKG done on Amanda, while it may seem costly at the time, is well worth it as compared to having a disease progress unnoticed. Other signs of Cushings is lethargy and greatly increase thrist. If untreated Cushings can be a painful death.

As to the lysodrene. It usually is only available in 50mg tablets which need to be recapsuled down for the tiny Maltese body. I know of a pharmaceutical company in Mass. which can do this and it is cheaper than having it recapsuled at your local hospital's pharmacy usually.

Veterinary medicine has made tremendous advances in recent years and my best advice to all of you is find a vet that you like and trust, who will recognize their own shortcomings and seek advice from others if necessary and then always get yearly check-up when you do vacines.

It took me a while to respond to you, Nick, because I read your message and all I could think was that could be me. And while I know at 16+ Amanda doesn't have a lot of years, I don't know how I'll handle it. So my heart goes out to you. Just remember folks, they are worth all the money in the world and you can't take it with you so get good yearly check-up to catch these things as early as can be.

To Rebecca: Thank you so much for your kindness. It is so hard to lose one of these little guys! And your advice is absolutely great. I hope all the other Maltese lovers out there will pay close attention.

There is one other thing that I forgot to mention and I think it is vitally important. Tammy had two little boys in her first and only littler along with a very small little girl and one boy who was lost during delivery. He was the "first out" and she was so small.

We have those two little boys with us now AND THEY HAVE BOTH BEEN DIAGNOSED WITH CUSHINGS DISEASE. This seems to me to make the statement that in their case that it was hereditary. I hope some vet school will soon do a thorough study into this disease. I will email you direct for info on the company in Mass that can recapsule the lysodrene. Thank you for your input!
-Nick Zorn

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