Case notes:

An 11 lb., 12 year old Chihuahua has all the symptoms of Cushing’s. Ultrasound showed an enlarged liver. She also has a heart murmur. Voracious appetite, increased urination with accidents, thirst, lethargy, coughing. She does not have skin rashes, sores or bad coat. Vet suspected Cushing’s and said it was going to cost around $1200 to find out. After research, it seems animals do not do well on Prednisone/steroids. Treatment is worse than disease. Question: Some animals do better with Supraglan, some with Cushex. Would it be ill-advised to combine the two? She needs improvement fast. Vet never suggested changing her diet or that natural remedies would help at all.

Suggested procedure:

I’m not a veterinarian and do not give medical advice or diagnosis. Nor do I interfere with ongoing veterinary protocol. But as a board certified herbalist specializing in natural remedies for dogs and cats, I would like to suggest a way forward for the Chihuahua. If she were my own sweet dog, this is what I would do.

Instead of treating for Cushing’s at first, let’s take a look at her symptoms from a more basic biological perspective. Her heart, liver, kidneys and digestive tract are far more likely to be the upstream causes that contribute to symptoms of Cushing’s — or diabetes or worms or arthritis. The dividing lines are blurry.

But until these organs/systems are in balance and we have a more stable patient to work with, the question of Cushing’s or otherwise is premature if not irrelevant.

Her enlarged liver and heart murmur are far more suspect to me than her symptoms of Cushing’s, and clearly a better place to start. My naturopathic herbal protocol would begin by nourishing these larger, deeper organs first and foremost.

Anyone can do this with minimal effort. You will be working with four of my favorite herbs: Milk Thistle, Hawthorne Berry, Dandelion Root and Burdock Root. Buy these in 1 ounce tinctures at your local health food store or at Whole Foods if available. You can also buy pure herbal powder in capsules of 450 to 500 milligrams each.

Go to Mountain Rose Herbs (single ingredient capsules), a safe and reliable source. Capsules are easy to open and “cut” for accurate dosing. Whether you use powder from capsules or drops from a tincture, you will be sprinkling it over her wet or dry food twice daily.

Mix the four herbs together in equal parts and give once in the morning and once again in the afternoon or evening.

(1) If you use liquid herbal tinctures, the label will tell you how many drops to give a human of average weight (150 to 200 lbs.). As a general rule, you can divide your dog’s weight by an average human’s weight to get the percentage of the recommended dosage to give your dog. For example, your dog’s 11 pounds divided by 150 pounds equals 7.3% of a standard dose. If the label on the tincture calls for 30 drops in a standard dose, give her 7.3% of 30, which is 2 or 3 drops. Add each herb to her food twice daily.

(2) Pure herbal powder is even easier to work with and does not contain harmful alcohol as tinctures do. Simply open the capsules and use a credit card to divide and measure the powder before sprinkling it on her food. Here you will want a little higher percentage than the liquid dose from a tincture.

Use a minimum threshold amount of 200 mg of each herb for her light 11 lbs. With a capsule containing 500 mg, for example, measure out roughly two-fifths for each dose. (Give 200 mg of each herb for dogs weighing up to 20 lbs. From 21 to 50 lbs., give one 450 to 500 mg capsule twice daily. From 51 to 100 lbs., give 1 1/2 capsules of each herb twice daily. Above 100 lbs., give 2 capsules of each herb twice daily.)

Remember, dosing with herbal medicine is not as critical as dosing with allopathic drugs. Herbs work with the body, not against it, and risk of overdose is simply not an issue at these levels if instructions are followed.

Milk Thistle will detoxify the liver; repair damaged liver cells and promote the regeneration of new cells.

Hawthorne Berry is specific for the heart and will nourish and tonify both the organ and circulatory system.

Dandelion Root helps not only with liver detoxification but it’s also “Cholagogue” in that it decongests the gall bladder by increasing bile flow. It is “Choleretic” in that it promotes bile production, and it is “Anti-rheumatic” in that it helps the body dump metabolic waste into the blood stream to be cleansed by the kidneys.

Burdock Root will supercharge her digestive juices promoted by the Dandelion Root, also assisting the kidneys in removing toxins that can build up in the blood.

Continue this protocol for 3 to 6 weeks before re-evaluating symptoms. Odds are quite good that you’ll have your ‘ol furry friend back from the brink and well on her road to recovery with just these herbal nutrients. If so, continue ongoing maintenance at about half the initial dose. If not, consider continuing at half the initial dose anyway (these four herbs form the cornerstone of good herbal nutrition) while we turn our attention back to Cushing’s, if symptoms warrant.

A few natural products vie for the Canine Cushing’s market. Often mentioned are Supraglan and Cushex. Neither of these am I qualified to talk about although I’m sure they are fine products.

My recommendation is Primalix® CortiQuel Herbal Extract “Functional Food Drops” formulated specifically to ameliorate and eliminate symptoms of Cushing’s in all dog breeds.

I also recommend a mineral/herbal detoxicant that already contains 3 of the four above-mentioned herbs (Milk Thistle, Dandelion Root and Burdock Root – all you add is Hawthorne Berry). This product also contains clinoptilolite Zeolites (a group of unique volcanic mineral substances) which have a remarkable ability to cleanse and detoxify the body at the cellular level. It’s called MaxoTox Herbal-Mineral Detoxicant.

Finally, I’m not surprised that your vet did not suggest changing her diet or trying natural remedies. Even the best of us fall victim to the conventionalism, arrogance and ignorance that can blind us. The simple truth is, Nature holds the body’s own healing power – and gives it up willingly! Tell everybody you know. Herbs are truly the most miraculous natural healers on Earth!