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Addison’s Disease is rare in dogs, but not unheard of. This disease is the opposite of Cushing’s Disease, which is an excess of the stress hormone cortisol in their body. With Addison’s Disease, the adrenal glands do not produce enough cortisol.
There are many causes of this condition. Some dogs have abnormal development of the adrenal gland itself. Other dogs have a problem with the part of the brain that controls cortisol production by the gland. In some cases, Addison’s Disease is an auto-immune disease, where a dog’s own immune system destroys the gland, so it can’t produce hormones any more.
Symptoms of Addison’s disease in dogs include vomiting, diarrhea, muscle weakness, difficulty walking and lethargy. As you can imagine, these symptoms are very non specific and vague. They can also come and go, which can make it hard to work out if your dog really has a problem, or they’re just tired or feeling off color. The symptoms could be caused by any number of diseases, and it can be challenging to reach a diagnosis of this condition in dogs. Blood tests will detect the low levels of cortisol, as well as the typical electrolyte changes that are characteristic of Addison’s Disease.
Your dog’s initial treatment will include intravenous fluids and medication to restore their electrolytes and hormone levels back to normal as soon as possible. This will alleviate their symptoms, and they’ll feel better very quickly. When they are stabilized, they will then start maintenance therapy which will keep their hormone levels at that normal level. This will involve giving them tablets on a daily basis for the rest of their life. Regular blood tests will make sure their hormone levels stay within normal limits.
In Summary – Although diagnosis can be tricky, treatment of Addison’s Disease can be very straight forward. Affected dogs can live a perfectly normal life, as long as they are given the appropriate medication.
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