Dog Addisons Disease
Addison’s disease is an endocrine disorder, which occurs when the adrenal gland fails to produce sufficient amounts of corticosteroid hormones (hormones that are produced by the cortex of the adrenal gland). These hormones act on the blood sodium/potassium balance and the energy metabolism of an animal, and are vital to an animal’s ability to adapt to stress. As such, deficiency in these hormones leads to a general inability to cope with stress. Therefore, small health problems could become much more serious in an animal with untreated Addison’s disease.
Because Addison’s disease is a chronic condition and the symptoms may be hard to recognize, many animals remain undiagnosed. Many symptoms of Addison’s disease imitate other conditions, and the disease itself may be caused by other underlying problems; as such, it may take some time before the disease can be identified. However prognosis is usually good for Addison’s disease sufferers, and regular treatment will virtually eliminate all symptoms.
Symptoms and Diagnosis
The symptoms are vague in the beginning, which may include vomiting, Dog Diarrhea, and general fatigue. When the hormone insufficiency becomes severe, a condition known as an Addisonian crisis, the animal goes into shock due to low blood sugar and disrupted potassium level, which results in heart arrhythmia. The animal typically will respond to general treatment for shock and may recover without further complications from the underlying disorder. Blood tests during an Addisonian crisis can often be suggestive of other causes such as renal failure; the low blood sugar can also lead to the suspicion of an insulin disruption.
The only way to test for Addison’s disease is to perform an ACTH stimulation test. The animal will receive a dose of ACTH, which is a hormone that triggers the release of corticosteroid hormones. If the animal does not show high corticosteroid hormones after receiving ACTH, a positive diagnosis can be made.
The disease, while relatively rare, can appear in all breeds and are most frequently associated with middle-aged (4-7 years) females.
Once diagnosed, treatment is relatively simple via replacing the deficient hormones with artificial supplements. Hormone supplements can be done by oral medication, given twice daily, or by a monthly injection. The frequency and dosage of treatments are determined by blood tests, which should be performed regularly to monitor the animal’s sodium and potassium levels. Situations that cause excessive stress should be avoided. However, if a stressful situation is anticipated (such as moving or travelling), owners can help the animal to better cope with the additional stress by temporarily increase the medication dosage.