About 5% of dogs with an endocrine or hormonal disorder called Cushing’s Disease have a variation of the disease called Atypical Cushing’s Disease. Both forms of Canine Cushing’s Disease in dogs may be either pituitary or adrenal-dependent and involve a hormone called Cortisol.
Some dogs with Atypical Cushing’s Disease have an abnormality in the pathway their body uses to produce sex hormones such as Estrogen and Testosterone. This is because of certain enzyme deficiencies in these dogs.
The lack of enzymes in these dogs with the Atypical form of Canine Cushing’s Disease can result in the accumulation of substances called Cortisol hormone precursors that end up being sent or shunted into abnormal metabolic pathways. This results in the production of excessive levels of sex hormones in these dogs.
With Atypical Cushing’s Disease in dogs, the cortisol precursors end up stimulating production of canine sex hormones, a process vets refer to as androgen biosynthesis. This is why many dog’s with atypical Cushing’s Disease have elevated sex hormones, for example Androstenedione.
What Dog Owners & Vets Can Do for Atypical Cushing’s Disease and Elevated Canine Sex Hormones.
Lysodren is a medication traditionally used to treat typical Canine Cushing’s Disease in dogs. Dogs with the atypical form of Cushing’s Disease only need half the dose used for the treating the typical form of Cushing’s Disease.
Lysodren is the preferred treatment for Atypical Canine Cushing’s Disease because it effectively lowers Cortisol as well as the sex hormones including androstenedione, progesterone, and 17-OH progesterone.
Lysodren is referred to as an adrenocorticolytic agent. When Lysodren is used to treat Canine Cushing’s Disease, there are 2 phases of therapy and two dosages of Lysodren used in dogs. One dose is used for the induction phase which lasts 7-10 days and a second dose is used for the Maintenance Phase. The maintenance phase for Lysodren dosage and therapy generally lasts for the lifetime of the dog.
What is unusual is that dogs with Atypical Cushing’s Disease only require about half of the normal Lysodren dose in the initial 7-10 day induction phase of Cushing’s Disease.
The good news is that the low Lysodren dosage takes only 3 days to effectively reduce production of adrenal cortex hormones in dogs and lower canine sex hormone levels.
The reduction in the levels of these sex hormones in dogs includes androstenedione. This reduction is easily validated with blood work and occurs whether or not signs of Cushing’s disease such as excessive water drinking improve.
It is noteworthy that the newest approved medication many vets now use to treat canine Cushing’s Disease called Trilostane, although fine for treatment of typical canine Cushing’s Disease should not be used with atypical Cushings Disease.
This is because Trilostane increases adrenal sex hormone synthesis and increases production and blood levels of canine sex hormones. Trilostane usually also increases the levels of other sex hormone levels in dogs including estradiol and androstenedione.
Natural Alternative Therapy’s for Typical Canine Cushing’s Disease and Atypical Cushing’s Disease in Dogs
Melatonin, a natural over the counter amino acid, is available as an alternative treatment for both typical and atypical canine Cushing’s disease. Melatonin has what is called anti-gonadotropic activity, therefore theoretically is said to be helpful with both forms of Cushing’s Disease and should also reduce excessive canine sex hormone levels.
The problem is that dogs must take Melatonin for 3-4 months before a reduction in sex hormone levels or any signs of improvement occur at all for either form of Cushing’s Disease in dogs. In addition, for dogs with the Atypical form of Cushing’s Disease, Melatonin lacks the ability to effectively reduce canine sex hormone levels as it’s action on adrenal sex steroid hormone production or what vets call synthesis is negligible.
Flax seed oil with Lignin’s is another alternative treatment offered for atypical Cushing’s Disease. Pet owners should understand the fact that dogs are not able to convert flax into the essential omega fatty acids EPA or /DHA, but the lignin’s do carry anti-estrogen activity and can lowers cortisol enzymes.
Ketoconazole, an anti-fungal agent also decreases androgen and cortisol enzymes, although adverse side effects are not uncommon