Canine Cushing’s disease, which typically affects older dogs, develops when the adrenal glands produce too much of the hormone cortisol. Also called hyperadrenocorticism, Cushing’s produces symptoms such as hair loss, increased panting and drinking, high blood pressure and skin problems. In 80 percent of cases, a pituary gland tumor triggers the disease, according to Pet Education, but veterinarians usually recommend traditional medications over surgery. Natural, non-prescription supplements, such as phosphatidylserine, can be used in conjunction with prescribed drugs.
When Cushing’s disease is diagnosed, the goal of treatment is to suppress the adrenal overproduction of cortisol. Over time, too much cortisol in a dog’s body produces problems similar to those from overuse of steroid medication, including pancreas and musculoskeletal problems.
Reducing cortisol production is not a cure for Cushing's disease, but it is essential to slowing the long-term decline that comes with the disease. The most commonly prescribed drug, Lysodren, destroys adrenal gland cells enough to slow the production of cortisol. Veterinarians might be able to lower the dose of Lysodren when phosphatidylserine is used concurrently, suggests a column in the December/January 2007 issue of Animal Wellness magazine.
The potential severity of Cushing’s disease always warrants the use of prescribed medications. Some dog owners add phosphatidylserine treatment only after starting traditional drugs, in order to assess the effectiveness of prescription medications alone. As a phospholipid, or a fatty acid that contains phosphate, phosphatidylserine supports brain cell and neurotransmitter functioning. In dogs, it might naturally suppress the adrenal glands and reduce cortisol levels to complement the suppressive action of Lysodren, according to Animal Wellness.
Although some veterinarians report success when using phosphatidylserine as an adjunct Cushing’s disease therapy, each dog will respond differently to a combination of traditional and non-traditional medications, according to Animal Wellness. If you use phosphatidylserine while treating your dog for Cushing’s disease, ask your veterinarian what side effects might be expected, and at what doses.
Purchasing and Dosing
Phosphatidylserine can be purchased as phosphatidylserine isolate or as part of a supplement complex. When treating dogs for Cushing’s disease, memory loss and cognitive decline, WellVet.com recommends 100 mg capsules of phosphatidylserine isolate administered one to two times a day. Consult your vet before beginning treatment with phosphatidylserine, to be sure you use the best dose for your dog.
There is some scientific evidence that phosphatidylserine helps the aging canine brain in other ways. A 2008 study in the Journal of Veterinary Behavior reviewed the use of phosphatidylserine as a treatment for cognitive decline in senior dogs. Researchers reported that phosphatidylserine improved memory in old animals with various degrees of dementia. They also noted that the supplement reversed amnesia and offered broad neuroprotective properties.