Addison’s disease or hypoadrenocorticism is a disease that affects the production of hormones in the adrenal gland. These are natural steroids in the dog’s body such as mineralocorticoids and glucocorticoids.
Without these steroids, there is a slow down of the metabolism of sugar, fat, and protein, plus the fight and flight response system. This can cause serious problems in a dog’s health.
Addison’s disease presents itself in a number of symptoms which makes it hard to diagnose, especially because they flare up and fade away with time. These symptoms include:
- Lack of appetite or anorexia
- Depression or lethargy
- Weight Loss
- Diarrhea or bloody stool
- Dehydration or increased thirst
- Frequent urination
- Hair loss or alopecia
- Abdominal Pain
- Irregular heart rate or weakened pulse
- Low body temperature
- Skin hyperpigmentation
- Low blood sugar
- Collapse or Addisonian crisis where the imbalances lead to a state of shock
The leading cause of Addison’s disease in dogs is immune-mediated destruction, where the immune system attacks the body’s tissue. This leads to damage to the adrenal glands which causes failure. This may be a result of trauma, tumors, or infections which damage the adrenal glands. Addison’s disease may also be a result of a failure of the pituitary glands to produce a special hormone called adrenocorticotropic hormone, or ACTH.
This is responsible for stimulating the adrenal gland. This condition may also be a result of certain medications. This affects mainly female dogs and breeds such as Great Danes, Bearded Collies, Nova Scotia Duck TOlling Retrievers, Portuguese Water Dogs, Poodles, Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers, and West Highland White Terriers.
Addison’s disease is detected through an ACTH stimulation test. This stimulates the gland to produce cortisol in normal dogs. Where the cortisol levels are not elevated, the dog will be diagnosed with Addison’s disease. Where collapse occurs, immediate hospitalization is required, followed by intravenous fluids and corrective hormone settlements. Since there is no cure, the dog will have to receive replacement hormones for the rest of his/her life.