Diet for Dogs With Cushings Disease

Lisa K. Campbell, DVM
Overweight dog

Cushing's disease can be difficult to treat. Dogs diagnosed with Cushing's have different nutritional needs than those without it. The good news is that dietary therapy can help control the symptoms associated with this disease. To understand the special dietary needs of a dog diagnosed with Cushing's Disease, it helps to know what causes Cushing's disease, which is excess cortisol.

Dietary Needs for Dogs With Cushing's Disease

It is very important that you don't feed a dog with Cushing's table scraps high in fat or sugar. Dogs with Cushing's disease require a diet with ratios of fat, protein, and carbohydrates different from that of a dog without this disease. The right diet can help to lower the cortisol levels in your dog's body and increase its life span.

Protein

Dog's with Cushing's do best on a diet based on a highly digestible protein. Protein helps to prevent muscle wasting, a common side effect of Cushing's disease. Some examples of highly digestible proteins are, egg whites, beef, chicken, lamb, salmon, and organ meats.

Shredded chicken

Fats

A low-fat diet is important because a dog with Cushing's is predisposed to hyperlipidemia (elevated cholesterol and triglycerides). The percentage of fat in your dog's diet should be less than 12% based on a dry matter basis (DM). Dry matter basis is the amount of protein, fat, and fiber in the food after taking out the moisture content of the food. It provides a more accurate way of comparing one food to another.

Carbohydrates

Moderate levels of fiber are needed in a diet for a dog with Cushing's. Levels in the 8% to 17% range are considered appropriate. This is also based on a dry matter basis.

How to Calculate Dry Matter Basis

To determine the amount of fiber or fat on a dry matter basis, simply divide the reported amount of fiber or fat by the total amount of dry matter in the food. Then multiply that by 100. Dry matter is 100 minus the percentage of moisture listed on the package. For example, say the percentage of moisture on your bag of food says 10. The fiber percentage is 8, and the fat is 12.

Calculation:

  • DM Basis = 100 - 10 = 90.
  • Fiber% = 8/90 x 100 = 8.8%
  • Fat% = 12/90 x 100 = 13.3%

Commercial Diets for Dogs With Cushing's Disease

There are many high quality commercial dog foods on the market. Using the recommendations above can be helpful when reading dog food labels. Consult your veterinarian prior to choosing a diet. Some veterinarians use prescription diets like royal canine gastrointestinal low -fat, or Hills Prescription Diet Metabolic, to manage Cushing's disease.

Homemade Diets for Dogs With Cushing's

Many pet owners have had success controlling their dog's Cushing's disease through a homemade diet. Companies like JustFoodForDogs will make a homemade diet and ship it to you. The advantage of using JustFoodForDogs is their ability to guarantee all the nutritional requirements are met. They can also adjust recipes according to your dog's specific needs.

Balanced Diet

If you choose to make a home cooked or even a raw diet, consult with a veterinary nutritionist to make sure you are feeding a balanced diet. Tufts University has board certified veterinary nutritionists who provide phone consultations with you regarding your dog's diet. Tufts can even formulate a unique diet for your dog.

Can Dietary and Nutritional Therapy Cure Cushing's?

Treatment for Cushing's can be complicated. Cushing's is a disease that is controlled, rather than cured. The good news is that diet and nutrition have proven to be one of the most important factors in extending the life span of dogs with Cushing's. Food therapy can control high cortisol levels, improve the immune system and increase energy levels. A combination of medicine prescribed by your veterinarian and a high quality commercial or homemade diet can help dogs with Cushing's live a quality life for years after their diagnosis.

Diet for Dogs With Cushings Disease