Best Diet for Dogs with Early Stage Cushing’s Disease

Once you have settled on what medications or remedies work best for your dog with Cushing’s disease, the next most important decision is to determine what to feed your dog so that they may have the best nourishment and quality of life that they possibly can. In order to even begin, the dog owner must be aware that Cushing’s disease creates a surplus of fat in the blood. This condition is called hyperlipidemia and is easy to determine based on the dog’s blood work. The dog’s diet should be centered around diminishing the amount of fat in the blood as a result. This can be challenging for some dog owners who feed dogs the table scraps that they love, but it is important to avoid this at all costs. The best thing for a dog with Cushing’s syndrome is a fat-restricted diet. The correct way to determine fat proportions is based on the food’s metabolizable energy, not merely on the percentage of fat present in the diet itself. Metabolizable energy is the net energy left over following the fecal and urinary functions that process the fat and leave the rest of the energy ready for metabolic processes, growth, and reproduction.

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Herbal medicine is unique in that the main focus of healing is in the food and not just targeting symptoms with drugs. With Cushing’s, we can’t cure the disease itself, but healing of the symptoms before they become bigger problems or lead to other diseases is imperative. According to Becki Baumgartner, Certified Master Herbalist, the best overall diet for dogs with Cushing’s syndrome should be 60-80% protein primarily from meat; 20-40% carbohydrates primarily from vegetables, fruit, and grain; between 2-16% fat strictly. The best way to control this is to cook all of your dog’s meals at home. What specifically to feed your dog depends on whether they are in the early-, mid-, or late-stage of their Cushing’s disease. Dogs in their early stages usually fall into two main categories, as either having liver qi stagnation or yin deficiency.

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According to AOMA Graduate School of Integrative Medicine, liver qi stagnation is when “the energy, or qi, of the liver system does not flow as easily and freely as it should…as it is largely responsible for the movement of qi through the entire body and the free flow of blood which provides fluids and nourishment”. Liver qi becomes blocked due to high stress; in this case, that is indicated by cortisol. Dogs with liver qi stagnation show signs of belching, flatulence, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, irritability, restlessness, anxiety, depression and fatigue. Because of this, they should eat what holistic vets call “cooling foods” as 75-90% of their food intake. These foods include duck, turkey, rabbit, pearled barley, brown rice, spinach, eggplant, mung beans, broccoli, celery, bamboo shoot, cucumber, mangos, and kiwis.

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Foods that help relieve the stagnation should be used sparingly and only account for 10-20% of the diet. These foods include chicken, rabbit, beef, crab, shrimp, lemon, dill, tangerine peel, ginger, turmeric, apple cider vinegar. It is best to never overfeed the dog and avoid food with high carbohydrates. Yin deficiency, on the other hand, is characterized by an overspending of energy that causes an excess of drinking and urination, panting at night, lack of sleep and restlessness, lethargy, dry cough, dry feces, shaking, and hair loss. Dogs with these symptoms should have the “cooling foods” rabbit, duck, eggs, black beans, kidney beans, string beans, barley, spinach, celery, peas, pears, apples, and blueberries. As with liver qi stagnation, one should avoid feeding their dog foods high in carbohydrates and also not overfeed.

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Triglycerides also circulate the blood and need to be regulated as well.

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Fish oil supplements are amazing for lowering both. Beet pulp helps to lower the cholesterol, triglycerides, and provides fermentable fiber.

  • Supplement with medicinal mushrooms. PET | TAO’s Complement Immune Mushroom Blend eases inflammatory response and immune system stress caused by Cushing’s.
  • Try digestive enzymes and probiotics . PET | TAO’s Harmonize Gi boosts gut health, which in turn helps your dog better process all food nutrients. Improved gut health also boosts immunity and calms allergic response.
  • Feed Freeze Dried Liver Treats. According to TCVM, as when Cushing’s disease is present there is almost always Liver Meridian involvement. Liver treats provide Liver Meridian support like as a glandular supplement (Western theory) and via 5-Element Theory (Eastern theory).
  • Learn more about TCVM Herbal Remedies. Chinese medicine offers many amazing natural solutions for Cushing’s disease. A good example is:

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When a dog enters the middle stages of Cushing’s disease, obvious signs and symptoms appear. Symptoms of mid-stage Cushing’s are:

  • Pot-bellied (pendulous abdomen)
  • Thin, wrinkly, dark-pigmented skin
  • Calcinosis cutis (calcium deposits on the skin)
  • Muscle loss
  • Tendon and ligament weakness
  • Shaking and trembling
  • Lethargy
  • Variable appetite
  • Intermittent diarrhea or vomiting
  • A tongue that is pale to red, dry to wet.

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What is Qi-Yin Deficiency in Mid-Stage Dog Cushing’s Disease?

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For easier understanding, we categorize dogs suffering from mid-stage Cushing’s disease in the TCVM pattern of Qi-Yin Deficiency. Of course, to get an exact TCVM diagnosis of your dog’s energetic health, you need to see a TCVM-trained veterinarian. Your TCVM vet will also explain in detail what your dog is experiencing and what to expect.

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Recipe for Dogs in Mid-Stage Cushing’s Disease

Use Eastern Food Therapy to energetically balance your dog and make him/her feel better.

Dogs in Mid-Stage Cushing’s disease need foods to tonify Qi, Yin, and Blood. If you have trouble doing the math, you can use a nutrient counter like what’s
available on Livestrong or FitBit websites. An easy way to keep the fat at a minimum is to use lean meat.

You also need to be careful what treats you feed a dog with Cushing’s disease. The best treats for Cushing’s disease, freeze-dried organ meats, are naturally
low in fat.

Use the list of foods below to create endless delicious recipe combinations for your furry friend!

Mix up the ingredients as needed to create a food that your dog loves.

Food List for Dogs in Mid-Stage Cushing’s Disease

Dogs in mid-stage Cushing’s disease need foods to tonify Qi and tonify Yin and Blood.

Foods to tonify Qi should make up 20% to 40% of the diet.

Foods to Tonify Qi

Chicken, Beef, Rabbit, Oats, Brown rice, Sweet potatoes, Yams, Mackerel, Trout, Pumpkin, Squash, Raspberries

Foods to Tonify Yin & Blood

Beef liver, Beef heart, Sardines, Trout, Herring, Carrots, Parsley, Salmon, Duck, Rabbit, Eggs, Black beans, Kidney beans, Barley, Spinach, Blackberries, Peas, Pears, Apples

Fermentable Fiber Intake Adding a blend of fructooligosaccharides and beet pulp to the diet may also help, since this blend can decrease serum triglyceride and cholesterolconcentrations in the dog.

Antioxidant Treatment Antioxidant therapy consisted of a combination of α-tocopherol, β-carotene, vitamin C, selenium, and methionine may be beneficial in lowering circulating blood fats. and moderate in protein. The protein aspect must be carefully monitored because if there is too little protein present in the diet, it may cause the cholesterol to spike. Most diets with a fat content less than 8% will provide less than 25g fat/1000 kcal. Some diets appear low in fat on a percentage basis (<8%), but actually provide substantially more than 25 g fat/1000 kcal when the amount of fiber in the diet and metabolizable energy are taken into account, and thus are not low-fat diets.

Beet pulp (Diez et al., 1997).

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