In October of 2009, our Scottie Sadie was diagnosed with Cushing’s disease.
It was discovered by chance – she had her yearly checkup in early October and our vet found that she had an inflammation in her mouth and needed to have a few teeth removed. Her blood test showed elevated liver enzymes, which our vet said could be due to the inflammation. We scheduled an appointment for her dental work a few weeks later, and the pre-op (if that’s an appropriate word for dental work) blood test found that the liver enzymes were even worse (i.e. more elevated). That day, they removed several teeth, and our vet suggested we should come back a few weeks later for another blood as well as urine test.
We did, and the results were not good. Our vet told us she most likely had Cushing’s, based on the increased Alkaline Phosphatase level, decreased urine Specific gravity and increased Urine cortisol creatinine ratio, and suggested we should do an ultrasound so they could take a look at her adrenal glands. If one adrenal gland is large and the other is not visible then an adrenal tumor may be suspected – the non-tumorous gland will atrophy. Large or normal size adrenal glands are typical with the presence of a pituitary tumor as both glands will be equally stimulated by ACTH (Adrenocorticotropic hormone) production.
We scheduled the ultrasound for a few weeks later, and in the meantime, I read everything I could get my hands on about Cushing’s, the causes, and treatments. It was pretty depressing reading.
What Is Cushing’s?
For those who are unfamiliar with the disease, it is usually caused by a tumor on either the pituitary gland or an adrenal gland, and it causes the body to consistently produce an excess of the hormone cortisol (often called a “stress hormone” because it raises the blood pressure during stress), which puts a lot of strain on the liver and poisons the blood. The pituitary tumors are often benign, but if the tumor grows, it can create other health issues (seizures, blindness, etc.) since it is pressing against the brain. Unfortunately, they are very difficult and risky to operate on, but on the upside, they usually grow very slowly. They can also be treated with chemo or radiation.
About half of the adrenal tumors are benign, can successfully be operated on, and removing them usually cures the dog of Cushing’s. But since the disease is most often found in older dogs, that is not without risk either. 50% of the adrenal tumors are malignant, and often, by the time they are discovered, it has spread to other organs. There are several traditional “western” medicines available, but they come with more or less severe side effects (one can cause Addison’s disease, another is thought to make pituitary tumors grow quicker, etc.).
The ultrasound did not show anything unusual, and Sadie only exhibited one of the common signs of Cushing’s: she drank a lot of water.
Our vet said we had probably caught the disease early, and he was hopeful that we could at least slow it down, if not get rid of it altogether. After reading up on the various drugs available, we decided to go the alternative route, at least for a while and see how she did. Thankfully, our wonderful vet is open to (and very knowledgeable about) alternative therapies, and he gave us two homeopathic sprays (Adrenal and Pituitary Sarcode), one Chinese herb (Rehmannia Six) and one supplement called Hepagen-C (which contains among other things milk thistle and turmeric). I also found a British study where two other homeopathic drugs (Quercus Rob and Adrenocorticotrophin) had been successfully used to actually cure Cushings in both horses and dogs. I told our vet about them, he looked into it, and thought it would be a good idea to add them too, so we did. We kept her on this for almost a year, and did regular blood tests and her liver enzyme levels stayed around the same level, so at least it didn’t get worse.
Things Get Worse
Then, in the summer of 2010, Sadie had two seizures in less than 7 hours (she had never had them before). We took her to see a neurologist that same day, and they did an MRI. I think we were all suspecting it was a pituitary tumor that caused them, but, much to our surprise and delight, the MRI did not show anything out of the ordinary. The neurologist prescribed Keppra (an anticonvulsant) which we started giving her immediately, and still have her on.
In the late fall of 2010, there were a few incidents where Sadie ate things she weren’t supposed to (our neighbor’s entire garlic patch, chocolate stolen from a purse) and she started throwing up almost every day, even after the effects of the garlic and chocolate had passed. It was like her digestive system wasn’t able to recover. Some weeks she had terrible diarrhea too. She seemed to be doing worse and worse.
We went for one of the now routine blood tests in the week between Christmas and New Years 2010, and the results were not good. She was lethargic, threw up a lot, and just wasn’t herself at all, in fact, she was doing so poorly we were afraid she wasn’t going to live much longer. Her liver panel results at that time were:
ALT – 310
AST – 62
Alk Phos – 884
Normal ranges vary from lab to lab, but at our vet’s lab, they are
ALT – 5-107
AST – 5-55
Alk Phos – 10-150
We decided to give Tong Ren a try, and contacted Christine Taylor (who was the featured practitioner in the Tong Ren post here on AWG – to learn more about what Tong Ren is, see that post). Christine communicated with Sadie, who told her she was nauseous and cold all the time, knew she wasn’t doing well and was quite concerned about her condition (which of course was heartbreaking to hear). Christine started doing Tong Ren on Sadie over the phone in early January of this year (2011). In the beginning, she did 2 treatments/week, and after a month, we stepped it down to once/week.
We also started giving Sadie Denosyl (which protects and helps liver cells and brain health) and probiotics (we use Jarrow Formulas’ Pet Dophilus). The probiotics worked magic on her digestive issues. The diarrhea and vomiting stopped almost overnight.
In the middle of February, we went back for a blood test, and the results were better! The liver enzymes had gone down quite a bit (if you’re curious about what these enzymes are, see the end of the post):
ALT – down to 185 from 310
AST – in the normal range, for the first time since June 2010
Alk Phos – down to 732 from 884
We were very encouraged, and Sadie seemed to feel better too. We continued with the treatments once/week, and our vet said to come back for another blood test in 2 months. At one point (once Sadie was doing better), we were considering stopping the Tong Ren treatments, but Sadie always seemed to be feeling great for a few days after each, playing and running like she did when she was younger, so we kept going with them anyway. In early April, we went back for another blood test, and a few days later, one of the vet techs left a voice mail asking us to give them a call. They wanted to know what we were doing differently, because the liver enzymes had improved so dramatically! These were the results in April:
ALT – in the normal range
AST – still in the normal range
Alk Phos – 425 (down from 732)
The only thing we had done differently was the Tong Ren, so of course I told them about Tong Ren and Christine. As of today, we continue with the Tong Ren treatments, and are supposed to go back for another blood test in 4 months. Sadie is much happier, more energetic, and like her old self (although she is a bit stiff from arthritis and I found a very interesting piece of information about that: apparently, inflammatory conditions, such as arthritis, are unmasked when the excess of cortisol is removed), and we are firm believers in the power of Tong Ren. As long as it makes her feel good, we will continue with it, and who knows, maybe even the Alk Phos will be in the normal range the next time!
Note: There are of course no guarantees that this will work for everyone; we all respond differently to energy healing. I can only tell you my experience with it, but I think it is so remarkable that I had to share it.
The Three Liver Enzymes Mentioned Above In Short
ALT – Alanine Aminotransferase
An enzyme found in the liver, kidneys, heart, muscles and red blood cells. The ALT levels rise when liver cells become damaged and the level of the increase is an indicator of the amount of damaged cells.
AST – Aspartate Aminotransferase
An enzyme found in the brain, heart, skeletal muscle, kidneys and liver. Elevated levels can indicate muscle or liver disease.
ALP – Alkaline Phosphatase
An enzyme mainly found in the liver and bones (higher levels are often found in growing puppies). An increase can indicate liver disease, pancreatitis, bile issues, Cushing’s, and osteosarcoma. ALP can also increase when a dog is taking anti-convulsants.