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Living with Canine Cushings
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Living with Canine Cushing’s Disease: An Integrated Approach

By Amy Snow and Nancy Zidonis


“My boy Titan seems to be getting old right before my eyes. Poor old guy, he’s turning 10 and just a year ago he was still his feisty Terrier-self with lots of vim and vigor. Now he drinks lots of water, lies around and only gets up to go out to do his business. He doesn’t even look like the same dog. Maybe I should have him checked out?”


Yes, it would be a good idea for Titan’s guardian to take him to their wholistic veterinarian for some tests because Titan is showing the classic clinical signs of Canine Cushing’s Disease, also known as hyperadrenocorticism.  Because it afflicts middle-aged to older dogs it can easily be mistaken for the gradual aging process. When the dog begins to have obvious and sometimes annoying indicators of the disease, like loss of hair or involuntary urination, we tend to attribute these signs to “he’s just getting older.”


Cushing’s Disease is a dysfunction of the complex system of interactions between the pituitary gland, located at the base of the brain, and the adrenal glands, which are near the kidneys. This dysfunction is characterized by a disruption in the natural cyclic process of the hypothalamus triggering the pituitary gland to produce adrenocorticotrophic hormone (ACTH) which then flows into the dog’s blood stream triggering the adrenal glands to secrete glucocorticoid  or cortisol hormones. When the cortisol level in the body is high enough the pituitary gland does not produce ACTH and the adrenal glands don’t continue to secrete glucocorticoid or cortisol hormones.


When a dog has Cushing’s disease the feedback loop between the pituitary and adrenal glands isn’t able to function and there’s an excess of cortisol and an excessive secretion of ACTH. The excess of cortisol impacts most of the systems of the body including the cardiovascular system, nervous system, immune system, skeletal muscles, kidney function, blood sugar levels, fat metabolism, and skeletal muscles. Cortisol also plays an important role in contending with any type of stress such as infections, trauma, pain, surgery, and fright. It is an essential hormone, but an over abundance of it is devastating to the body.


Your wholistic vet is the best resource for figuring out what is causing this disease in your dog. It could be a minute tumor on the pituitary or adrenal gland.  The most common cause of Cushing’s is a benign microscopic pituitary tumor. Another cause of Cushing’s is in response to an overdose of certain medications. There are tests that can be administered that will provide a definitive diagnosis leading to the best way to deal with the disease.




Integrated Approach

Managing the indicators of the disease is often the outcome of having a dog with Cushing’s. The good news is that dogs can live for many years with Cushing’s in relative comfort. There are medications when monitored carefully can help to mediate symptoms. Canine acupressure has been clinically observed to enhance the health and well-being of dogs with Cushing’s disease. Taking an integrative approach may be the best way for your dog to enjoy his remaining years.


Acupressure is based on Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and has been used to improve animal’s lives for thousands of years. You can apply gentle pressure to specific acupressure points on your dog’s body that will help support his immune system and enhance his body’s ability to balance his endocrine system. The idea behind using acupressure is to restore as much balance and nourishment to the animal’s body so that he feels well and the indicators of his illness are minimized.


Acupressure Session

All dogs want to feel good and have a happy life. An acupressure session every three-to-five days for a dog with Cushing’s disease can help your dog’s natural desire to be well. Usually, acupressure points are selected specifically for particular indicators a dog is presenting. However, there are some acupressure points that can have a general effect in helping to balance a dog’s body with endocrine issues while also supporting the immune system.


Kidney 3 (Ki 3), Great Stream, is an acupressure point that works with the essence of the body. This point helps stabilize all the systems by balancing energy and nourishing the tissues. Additionally, Ki 3 can have a positive effect on urinary incontinence and infections. This point is a good support for any elderly dog and particularly for a dog with Cushing’s.


Stomach 36 (St 36), Leg Three Miles,is a powerful point that is used to facilitate the flow of energy and blood throughout the dog’s body. St 36 is known to balance the digestive system while also supporting the immune system. It is probably one of the most commonly used points in all of acupressure.


Spleen 6 (Sp6), Three Yin Meeting, is another commonly used acupressure point. It is used to strengthen the immune system, helps move blood and energy, and benefits skin problems, urinary tract issues, and digestion. Sp 6 can have an effect on the endocrine system as well.


Bai Huiis an acupoint that most dogs love to have you scratch. It is a canine “feel-good” point. It is the Point of 100 Meetings for a dog and affects the energy flow of the hindquarters and the spine.  It is a good point to offer your dog at the end of the session because it will leave him smiling.

Find a quiet place where you can focus your healing intention and the dog feels safe and calm. Place the soft tip of your thumb gently on the acupressure point indicated in the chart. Count to 30 very slowly before moving to the next point. Your other hand can rest comfortably somewhere on the dog to maintain a connection and feel for any reactions. While performing point work watch your dog’s reactions. He will indicate a release of energy by yawning, stretching, rolling over, passing air, licking, and even falling asleep. These are good releases telling you that energy is moving.


Repeat the point work on the opposite side of the dog since all of the acupressure points are bilateral. When you at the end of the session, the Bai Hui point not bilateral, it is a single point. Older dogs seem to enjoy having you scratch the Bai Hui point rather vigorously; it brings up their energy along their spine and just feels good. Many of our senior canines dance while stimulating this point and it is always good to leave them dancing and smiling.



Common Indicators

of Canine Cushing’s Disease -  

Excessive water consumption
Excessive or involuntary urination

Voracious appetite

Potbellied appearance

Loss of Hair

Dry coat

Fragile skin

Hard lumps in the skin

Loss of muscle tone

Hindquarter weakness

Exercise intolerance


Excessive panting

Seeks cool places

Prone to diabetes, pancreatitis, or seizures

Reduced immune system



Graphics:Acupressure Session Chart


Amy Snow and Nancy Zidonis are the authors of:  The Well-Connected Dog: A Guide To Canine Acupressure; and, Acu-Cat: A Guide to Feline Acupressure, and Equine Acupressure: A Working Manual.  Tallgrass offers Meridian Charts for dogs, cats and horses, plus Introducing Equine Acupressure, a training video. Tallgrass animal Acupressure Institute provides training courses and a certificate program worldwide.  For further information: www.animalacupressure.com/ 888-841-7211 / [email protected]

By Amy Snow & Nancy Zidonis
All rights reserved. Any reproducing of this article must have the author name and all the links intact.


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