When To Put A Dog Down With Cushing’s Disease?

All dog owners eventually face the difficult decision of when to put their pet down. This decision can be even harder when a dog is suffering from a terminal illness such as Cushing’s disease.

As with other diseases, there is no one definitive answer as to when to put a dog down with Cushing’s disease. Every situation is unique and depends on the specific dog’s condition, as well as the owner’s circumstances.

Some factors that may influence the decision include how long the dog has been suffering from Cushing’s, how severe their symptoms are, whether they are in pain and whether they are still able to enjoy some of the things they enjoy.

However, sometimes Cushing’s disease can become so severe that euthanasia is necessary to relieve a dog from its pain and suffering. In these cases, owners should be as informed as possible about all of their options.

In this article, we will go over the signs and symptoms of Cushing’s disease, how long your pup may live with it, and treatment options for this condition.

We will also discuss when euthanasia may be the best option for a dog with Cushing’s.

What Is Cushing’s Disease?

Cushing’s disease is a hormonal disorder that affects dogs. It is caused by an overproduction of the hormone cortisol, which can be due to a tumor on the pituitary gland or the adrenal glands.

Cushing’s disease can cause a variety of symptoms, including hair loss, obesity, muscle wasting, diarrhea, and vomiting.

The disease can also lead to serious health problems such as high blood pressure, liver disease, diabetes, and congestive heart failure.

There are two types: adrenal-dependent and pituitary-dependent.

1) Adrenal-dependent

Adrenal-dependent Cushing’s disease is caused by a tumor on the adrenal glands, which are located near the kidney. This condition accounts for approx 20 percent of Cushing’s cases in dogs.

2) Pituitary-dependent

Pituitary-dependent Cushing’s disease is much more common and occurs when there is a tumor on the pituitary gland. This type of Cushing’s disease accounts for 80 percent of cases in dogs.

How Common Is Cushing’s Disease In Dogs?

In the United States, approximately 100,000 dogs are diagnosed each year with Cushing’s Disease. Cushing’s disease is most common in dogs over 6 years old, although it can also occur in dogs younger than that.

What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Cushing’s Disease?

The signs and symptoms of Cushing’s disease vary from dog to dog. However, some of the most common symptoms include:

  • Hair loss
  • Obesity
  • Muscle wasting
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Increased thirst and urination
  • Increased hunger
  • Low energy

Most dogs with this disorder suffer from excessive thirst, urination, and appetite as well as increased hair loss and thinning skin.

Some dogs may also develop a pot-bellied look or thin out around their face and neck.

In more severe cases, dogs may experience seizures, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Is Cushing’s Disease Deadly?

While Cushing’s disease can be a serious and life-threatening condition, most dogs with the disorder will live for several years after being diagnosed.

dog on a man's shoulder

However, the prognosis for each individual dog will depend on a number of factors, including how severe their symptoms are and how well they respond to treatment.

Effective treatment can make a big difference in how long a dog lives with Cushing’s disease.

Cushing’s disease is typically treated by removing the affected adrenal gland or pituitary gland, depending on which organ is producing cortisol.

In some cases, the tumor can also be removed through surgery or radiation therapy.

How Long Do Dogs With Cushing’s Disease Live?

The prognosis for a dog with Cushing’s disease varies depending on the individual dog and the cause of the disease.

Some dogs may only have mild symptoms and live for many years after being diagnosed. With regular checkups and proper medication for the symptoms of Cushing’s, most dogs will live for several years after being diagnosed with this condition.

Other dogs, however, may have a more serious condition that does not respond well to surgery or radiation therapy. These dogs will likely only survive a year or less with this disease.

What Are The Treatment Options For Dogs With Cushing’s Disease?

There is no one-size-fits-all treatment for Cushing’s disease. However, there are a few common treatment options that may help control the symptoms of this disorder.

These include:


There are a number of medications that can be used to treat the symptoms of Cushing’s disease. These medications can help control excessive thirst, urination, and appetite, as well as hair loss and muscle wasting.

  • Lysodren

This medication is typically given to dogs that have both adrenal glands affected by the disease. Lysodren works by blocking cortisol production and can be used as either a pill or an injection.

  • Vetoryl

This is another type of medication commonly used to treat Cushing’s disease. It blocks cortisol production and can also improve hair growth. This medication can be given as either a pill or an injection.


In some cases, surgery may be necessary to remove the tumor or gland that is causing the overproduction of cortisol. It is important to note that surgery is not always successful in treating Cushing’s disease. 

This may be due to the tumor being too large or inoperable.

Radiation therapy

Radiotherapy can also be used to treat Cushing’s disease, but it is not as widely used as surgery or medication. Radiation therapy may also be used to shrink tumors in the pituitary gland or adrenal glands.

However, radiation therapy is not always successful and can cause side effects such as pain, nausea, and vomiting. Radiation may also increase the risk of cancer recurrence.

Iatrogenic Cushing’s disease

This form of Cushing’s disease requires that the steroid be stopped. To avoid complications, this must be done slowly and carefully. However, It is common for the disease to recur.

The steroid could have adverse effects on the adrenal glands. Treatment is often required to replace the hormones the adrenal gland produces normally.

There are other alternative treatments some have recommended that may be effective in the treatment of Cushing’s disease such as dietary changes.

It has been recommended that you should feed your dog more protein and eat foods high in fat and fiber. This will help to reduce symptoms. However, evidence regarding this treatment is not strong. Therefore you should speak with your veterinarian before making any dietary changes.

When To Put A Dog Down With Cushing’s Disease?

The decision to euthanize a dog is never easy. There are many factors that should be taken into consideration when making this decision.

beagle at the vet clinic

Some of these factors include:

  • If your pet is having difficulty breathing

Animals with Cushing’s disease often have difficulty breathing due to the tumor pressing on their lungs.

  • If your pet is in pain

Cushing’s disease can be painful for dogs, and when they are in pain, euthanasia may be preferable to avoid further suffering. Nobody wants to see their pet in too much constant pain.

  • If your pet has an inoperable tumor

If the tumor is inoperable, euthanasia may be the best option for your pet. It may be your pet’s only option for avoiding further pain and suffering.

  • If your pet has a poor quality of life

If your pet is not able to enjoy life due to the disease, euthanasia may be the best decision. They may be uncomfortable or in pain, and be unable to engage in their usual activities.

  • If your pet has renal failure

Cushing’s disease can often lead to kidney failure. If your pet has renal failure and is producing excessive amounts of urine, euthanasia may be the best option. Renal failure can be very painful and difficult to treat.

  • If your pet has diabetes

Dogs with Cushing’s disease often develop diabetes. Over time, the body stops producing enough insulin, so dogs with this diagnosis must receive insulin injections throughout their lives. If your dog becomes diabetic as a result of Cushing’s disease, euthanasia may be the best decision.

  • If your pet is having seizures

Seizures are a common symptom of Cushing’s disease. If your pet is experiencing seizures, the difficult decision to euthanize your pet may be necessary. You must consider the quality of life for your pet with seizures.

  • If your pet has not responded to treatment

Cushing’s disease can be very difficult to treat, and some dogs do not respond well to the available treatments. If your dog is not responding to medication or other therapies, euthanasia could be a humane decision.

  • If your pet no longer wants to eat

If your pet stops eating as a result of the disease, euthanasia may be recommended by your veterinarian. As long as you can orally give medications to your pet, this is not an immediate concern.

However, if they are refusing food or water, this can be very dangerous and ultimately lead to their death. If you are unable to force-feed your pet, euthanasia may be the only option as otherwise, they will die slowly from starvation.

  • If your pet is losing weight

Cushing’s disease can cause a dog to lose weight quickly. This weight loss is often a sign of impending death, and euthanasia may be necessary.

Remember, there is no easy answer when it comes to deciding when to put a dog down with Cushing’s disease. Every situation is different and you should speak with your veterinarian to get their advice.

vet examining a dog using stethoscope

Your vet is there to help and make this difficult decision as easy as possible. They will take into consideration your pet’s quality of life and other factors before making the best decision for their health and well-being.

People Also Ask

What Are The Symptoms Of End Stage Cushings Disease In Dogs?

In the later stages of Cushing’s disease, a dog may experience muscle wasting, loss of energy, thinning skin, and seizures. They may also have difficulty breathing and urinating. If your pet is experiencing any of these symptoms, euthanasia may be the best option.

How Long Can A 12 Year Old Dog Live With Cushings Disease?

There is no definitive answer to this question as each dog’s prognosis will vary depending on the severity of their case. However, some dogs with Cushing’s disease can live for several years with appropriate treatment. Approximately 10% of dogs will live past 4 years with the disease.

Are Dogs With Cushing’s In Pain?

Although not always, some dogs with Cushing’s disease may experience pain as a result of the disease. The level or severity of pain will vary from dog to dog. Some will respond better than others to treatment for pain such as medications or surgery.

Should You Treat Cushing’s In Older Dogs?

Some people may choose to treat their dog’s Cushing’s disease while others may choose to euthanize their pet. It is important to weigh the pros and cons of treatment with your veterinarian before making a decision. Treatment for Cushing’s disease can be difficult and expensive, and not all dogs will be helped by treatment.

What Causes Death In Dogs With Cushing’s?

Several factors can contribute to the death of a dog with Cushing’s disease. Difficulty breathing, heart or kidney failure, cancer, and blood clots are common causes of death in dogs with Cushing’s.


When it comes to Cushing’s disease, there is no one-size-fits-all answer as to when to euthanize a dog. Each individual pet will have a different experience with this disease and may reach a point where euthanasia is the best decision for them.

We become so attached to our furry friends, it is so hard to make the decision to put them down. But when it comes to Cushing’s disease, sometimes euthanasia is the kindest thing we can do.

Nobody wants to see their pet in pain and slowly deteriorating before their eyes.

You must take into account your pet’s quality of life, symptoms, and overall health before making a decision.

If you are struggling with the decision to euthanize your dog, please speak with your veterinarian to get their professional advice on what is best. They will be able to help you make the best decision for your pet.

Does your dog have Cushing’s disease? How are you managing its condition? Share your experience in the comments section below.

Photo of author

Lovelia Horn

Leave a Comment