Canine Addison’s Disease

Did you just get back from the veterinarian with a diagnosis that your dog has Canine Addison’s disease? Did you say, “What in the world is that?” Maybe he even explained, but you’re still unsure of what this diagnosis means to you and your pet. In this article you will see that, while dangerous, this condition can be treated and your pet can enjoy a long and healthy life.

Canine Addison’s disease, also known as canine hypoadrenocorticism, is a condition in which the adrenal gland does not produce sufficient amounts of hormones. This is seen especially in case of dogs. Glucocorticoids and mineralocorticoids are the two types of hormones deficient with Addison’s disease. Glucocorticoids (cortisol) regulates numerous systems in the body and deals with stress. Potassium and sodium are regulated by mineralocorticoids (aldosterone).

Some of the common signs and symptoms of this disease include

– anorexia or weight loss

– diarrhea or constipation.

– more water consumption and urination.

– lack of appetite and lethargy.

– low blood pressure, slow heart beat.

– vomiting and muscle weakness.

– hyperpigmentation.

Symptoms way worsen during different times, but when left undiagnosed and improperly treated, it causes a severe health crisis. Primary confirmation of the Addison’s disease is done by laboratory analysis which includes a complete blood count, serum cortisol concentration and serum chemistry profile. Common hematological findings with the disease includes lymphocytosis and eosinophilia. Addison’s disease can be diagnosed by a series of blood tests. Adrenocorticotropic hormone stimulation test will give a definitive diagnosis for the disease. This test measures the levels of cortisol in two blood samples, before and after stimulation.

Electrolyte levels are to be monitored through the course of treatment. Treatment includes replacement of glucocorticoid and mineralocorticoid steroids. Supplementation of drugs include prednisone or prednisolone (glcocorticoid) and Percorten-V or Florinef (mineralocorticoid). Dogs with this disease are more prone to urinary tract infections which includes small volume urination, blood in the urine is not very common.

The most concerned complications of Addison’s disease include an Addisonian crisis. This may be due to environmental or emotional crisis. During this condition, the dog has to be hospitalized and given high doses of intravenous fluids and glucocorticoids to prevent dehydration and collapse. With the proper management and medication dogs with this disease can have a normal lifespan.

by: Dr. David Ormond D.V.M.

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