Published on: 12/06/2021, updated on: 12/06/2021

When to Euthanize a Dog with Cushing’s Disease

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Dogs are amazing furry companions who shower you with unconditional love. As a dog parent, you give your best to ensure they get the proper nurturing, best food, and affection. Unfortunately, things don’t always go according to plan, and your beloved pet might suffer from terminal ailments like Cushing’s disease.

Cushing’s disease is a chronic health issue that requires extensive treatment. Even though this ailment can be controlled with adequate veterinarian treatment, it will frequently progress to the point where it affects your dog's quality of life.

It is a tough and heartbreaking decision to let your dog go. To help you make an informed decision, this article will discuss everything you need to know about ending the pain of your dog’s suffering from Cushing’s disease.

What is Cushing’s Disease in Dogs?

Cushing’s disease is also known as hyperadrenocorticism. It is a major health problem in dogs that arises when the adrenal glands create too much cortisol (cortisone). Excessive cortisol can make a dog more vulnerable to a variety of serious illnesses, ranging from renal damage to diabetes, and can even lead to death.

Canine Cushing’s disease is mostly caused by either a malignant or benign tumor in the pea-sized pituitary gland that is at the base of the brain. In some uncommon cases, the tumor might be on the adrenal glands which are on top of the kidneys. Iatrogenic Cushing's syndrome is caused by an excess of cortisol produced as a result of long-term steroid usage.

Which Dog Breeds Can Develop Cushing’s Disease?

Cushing’s disease can occur in any dog, but some breeds are more susceptible than others.

The following dog breeds are more vulnerable to this severe condition:

  1. Staffordshire terriers
  2. Yorkshire terriers
  3. Boston terriers
  4. Dachshunds
  5. Poodles, especially miniature poodles
  6. Boxers

What Are the Types of Cushing’s Disease?

There are mainly three types of Cushing's disease:

  1. Typical Cushing’s Disease
  2. Pituitary dependent Cushing’s
  3. Atypical Cushing’s disease
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Typical Cushing’s Disease

The adrenal glands create too much cortisol in this disorder. These glands are located next to your dog’s kidneys. The outer cortex produces a variety of hormones whereas the inner layer produces only two. The outer layer produces:

Cortisol—regulates metabolism and immunity

Aldosterone—controls blood pressure and water metabolism

Sex hormones—produce progesterone and estrogen

Pituitary Dependent Cushing’s

This condition arises when the pituitary gland produces the ACTH hormone excessively. The excess levels of the stress hormone cortisol are triggered by this.

Atypical Cushing’s Disease

This condition arises when the adrenal cortex overproduces steroid hormones. It also occurs when the dog has been prescribed long-term steroids.

Dog with Cushing’s Disease
Photo by Artem Beliaikin from Pexels

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Cushing's Disease?

The symptoms of Cushing’s disease are as follows:

  1. Excessive thirst and urination
  2. Urinary tract infections
  3. Fur loss
  4. Skin thickening
  5. Chronic skin infections
  6. Muscle loss and weakness
  7. Increased appetite
  8. Distended abdomen
  9. Irregular metabolic and immune system activity
  10. Weight gain and lethargy

What is the Diagnosis of Cushing’s Disease?

The vet needs to run a few tests to accurately diagnose the disease since the symptoms can vary. Such tests are:

  • Ultrasound
  • Screening tests—urine cortisol ratios
  • Differentiation tests

How to Treat Your Dog with Cushing’s Disease

The veterinarian will then devise a plan of action depending on the progression level and causes of your dog’s Cushing’s disease. Some dogs can be treated with long-term medication to keep it under control by suppressing cortisol production. They are also provided with a new diet where they should eat specialized dog food for Cushing’s disease.

In other cases, the dog will need surgery to remove the tumor responsible for this ailment. Regardless of the treatment method, your dog will need regular diagnostic checkups for the rest of its life to ensure that the disease is under control.

What Happens if Cushing's Disease is Left Untreated in Dogs?

Dogs tend to become weaker and progressively more lethargic. They will also be prone to contracting numerous other infections, mostly urinary infections. The skin will also take more time to heal after an injury. Multiple infections and hypoadrenocorticism can lead to death when left untreated.

How Long Does a Dog Live With Cushing's Disease?

After getting the bad news about your beloved companion, you are likely to wonder how much time you have left with them. This condition can be controlled somewhat with medicine under a vet’s supervision and checkups, but it will eventually prove fatal in most cases. Canine Cushing’s disease life expectancy is about three years.

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However, it should be noted that each dog has a different situation. Some dogs can remain comfortable and live for years with medication, and others might have limited time due to the rapid progression of the disease. It’s crucial to have an idea of what the situation might be when your dog has reached the last stage of this illness.

What Are the Final Stages of Cushing’s Disease?

At the final stage of Cushing’s disease, your dog will become incredibly weary and lethargic. They might stop eating and drinking. They will become less social as they don’t have the strength. Skin lesions may start to form, making it more uncomfortable for your dog.

When to Euthanize Your Dog with Cushing’s Disease

It is not at all easy to decide to euthanize a dog suffering from Cushing’s disease. This is a gradual and painful disease in which the symptoms slowly worsen over time. It is quite difficult to notice the slow deterioration and subtle changes in your dog over long periods. 

Making a rational decision based on these limited options is very difficult and heartbreaking. The decision must be a selfless one. It might be time to let your friend go when he doesn’t eat, sleep, or barely moves, indicating that the disease progression is beyond repair. If your pooch is facing neurological issues, in a constant state of anxiety or stress, or simply not getting better despite being on medication, unfortunately, it means it was a poor prognosis.

When considering euthanizing, you need to prioritize your dog’s quality of life. Ask yourself the following questions to know whether it is time to let your furry companion go.

  1. Does he still seem interested in his favorite activities and things?
  2. Does he still get excited to greet you when you arrive home?
  3. Is he reluctant to move and gets out of breath easily?
  4. Is he getting infections constantly?
  5. Is he constantly thirsty and pees around the house, outside his potty area?
  6. Is he showing any neurological abnormalities?

If all or most of the answers to these questions are yes, then it is time to consider euthanasia. Consult with the vet and comply with their recommendations. The vet can confirm whether it is time to euthanize your dog and will guide you through the whole process.

What to Do When You Decide to Put Down Your Dog Suffering Cushing’s Disease

Even though the decision of euthanizing your dog is heart-wrenching, the silver lining is that you can end his suffering, letting him pass with dignity. You can take solace in the fact that he will no longer be in pain and will be in a better place.

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The first thing you need to do is consult with your vet. Ask him the conditions to decide when to put a dog down. Ask whether there are any other treatment options left. Once it is clear that there are no other alternatives, ask your vet to explain to you the whole process of euthanizing.

Most veterinary clinics let the owner be with their furry best friend at the time of passing. Some may even have the option to arrange a home visit to ensure your dog’s comfort. You need to be prepared to prevent any anxiety or shocks. Just focus on being there for your best friend in his last moments.

Here’s what to expect:

  1. The vet will inject a light sedative or a pain medication while the pet is still awake.
  2. Then an IV catheter will be placed, and an anesthetic drug will be used to anesthetize your dog.
  3. Lastly, a drug will be injected through the catheter to stop the heart.
  4. Dogs take a few breaths after their heart stops as the diaphragm relaxes. This is quite normal.
  5. You need to keep in mind that your dog’s eyes will remain open. They won’t close because the relaxed state of eyes is open.
  6. Humans and animals alike may defecate or urinate as everything gets relaxed.
  7. The whole process is painless and just takes a few minutes.

How to Deal with Letting Go of Your Dog

The loss of a beloved dog has a huge emotional impact on its owners. Losing your furry companion is a painful experience that leaves a void in your heart. The only way to deal with it is by taking your time to grieve and understand how they are better off now as they are no longer suffering. They are now in a happier and better place. Look back on the fond memories you had and try to move on with your routine. You can also seek out professional counseling or talk with your friends about the emotional rollercoaster you are on.



Cushing’s disease in dogs is an unfortunate ailment that has no definitive cure. It can be controlled with medications and will make your dog feel comfortable after being diagnosed. However, it is usually fatal sooner or later.
When there are no other options and the symptoms of your dog dying from Cushing's begins to worsen, euthanizing is the only option that will end your friend’s pain.

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