Harlequin Haven Great Dane Rescue

Harlequin Haven
Great Dane Rescue

11567 St. Rt. 774
Bethel, Ohio 45106

937-379-2231
Phone Hours - 9 AM - 8 PM
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info@hhdane.org

 

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Addison's Disease

Addison’s disease (hypoadrenocorticism) is caused by a lower than normal production of hormones, such as cortisol, by the adrenal glands. The adrenals are small glands that are located near the kidneys. Adrenal hormones are necessary to control salt, sugar, and water balance in the body.

Addison’s disease occurs less commonly than the opposite condition, Cushing’s disease (overproduction of cortisol) in dogs.

Addison’s disease occurs most commonly in young to middle-aged female dogs. The average age is about 4 years old.

The signs of Addison’s disease may be severe and appear suddenly, or may occur intermittently and vary in severity. Signs may include weakness, depression, lack of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, and  increased thirst, and increased urine production. One lesser known sign is hair growth, the dogs hair will actually grow in length and stay that way until medication is given. Typically most vets will miss this as they do not know what is normal for your dog.

When a pet is stressed, their adrenal glands produce more cortisol, which helps them deal with the stress. Because dogs with Addison’s disease cannot make enough cortisol, they cannot deal with stress, so the signs may occur or worsen when stressed. What a dog finds stressful depends upon his/her temperament. For many dogs, any change in their day-to-day routine, such as being boarded or having house guests, is stressful and may precipitate or worsen signs of Addison’s disease.

On examination of dogs with Addison’s disease one may see depression, weakness, dehydration, weak pulses, and sometimes a slow, irregular heart rate.

Routine laboratory tests often show a low blood sodium and high blood potassium. Loss of water, vomit and diarrhea, can lead to dehydration. Severe dehydration increases waste products in the blood that are normally eliminated by the kidneys. Addison’s disease can be confused with primary kidney disease. Some dogs with Addison’s disease have low blood sugar.

Sick dogs often show changes in their white blood cells. This pattern of changes in the white blood cells is caused by cortisol. The urine is often dilute.

Increased blood potassium can cause life-threatening abnormalities in the heart rhythm. These abnormalities can cause the heart rate to be slow and irregular and can be seen on an electrocardiogram.

The history, physical examination, and initial laboratory tests provide suspicion for Addison’s disease, but a more specific test, an ACTH challenge, should be performed to confirm the disease.

There are two stages of treatment for Addison’s disease; in-hospital treatment and long term treatment. Very sick dogs with Addison’s disease require intravenous fluids, cortisol-like drugs, and drugs to neutralize the effects of potassium on the heart. 

The long-term treatment involves the administration of hormones in one of two forms; either a daily pill or an injection that is given about every 25 days. Because dogs with Addison’s disease cannot produce more cortisol in response to stress, stress should be minimized whenever possible. It may be necessary to increase the amount of hormones given during periods of stress (going to a boarding kennel, surgery, travel, etc.).

With appropriate treatment for Addison’s disease, many dogs can live a long and happy life.

Link to Addison's information:
http://CanineAddisonsInfo.com

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