Addison’s Disease or Hypoadrenocorticism is a syndrome caused by inadequate amounts of the hormone, Aldosterone which is made in the adrenal gland. Aldosterone controls the balance of sodium and potassium in the body. Without it, the sodium level gets very low and the potassium builds up in the blood. This can lead to weakness, vomiting, diarrhea and collapse. In addition to Aldosterone, many of these pets are also lacking Cortisone. Cortisone helps the body in times of stress such as illness, pregnancy, heat cycle etc. When it is missing, the pets may also become weak, lose their appetites, vomit or have diarrhea.
How does our veterinary team diagnose Hypoadrenocorticism?
Our veterinarians diagnose hypoadrenocorticism based on a combination of symptoms and blood tests. Any pet who is vomiting, showing signs of weakness, tremors, and diarrhea could be suffering from Addison’s disease.
Routine blood tests will usually show subnormal levels of Sodium and high levels of posassium. The ratio of Sodium to Potassium should be above 27 in normal dogs. If this value is lower than 27, then a test call the ACTH stimulation test is performed. In this test blood is taken from your pet, and then Adrenocorticotrophic hormone (ACTH) is administered by injection. A second sample is taken 1 hour later. In a normal dog, the body will respond to the ACTH by pushing out as much cortisone as it can. If there is little or no rise in cortisone after the acth, we have a definite diagnosis of Addison’s disease.
How does our veterinary team treat Addison’s disease?
Fortunately, supplying the missing hormone in pill or injection format readily treats Addison’s disease. We will use the drug Florinef (oral) or Percorten (injectable) to replace the Aldosterone that is missing. This drug must be given for the rest of the pet’s life. The oral version is generally given twice daily in most cases, whereas the injectable drug is given every 4 weeks. It is important that we check the effectiveness of this drug by monitoring the sodium and potassium levels in your pet’s blood on a regular basis. In the beginning of treatment, we will want to check these levels every week for 2-3 weeks then every 6 weeks for 4 months then every 4 months. In addition, every year, a complete chemistry profile and complete blood count must be done.
If you miss a dose, don’t panic. Your pet may get a bit weak, but will not generally get into serious trouble. Give the normal dose at the next treatment time.
In some dogs, our veterinarians will need to replace the cortisone they are lacking by using oral prednisone. If your pet seems weak, or has any of the other symptoms mentioned above, give prednisone as directed and see if the pet improves within an hour or so. If it does not have this effect, call us or consult the emergency clinic if it is after hours.
Many pets live perfectly normal lives with the addition of these drugs. You must always notify any veterinarian (i.e. at emergency clinics) that your pet has this disease so they can modify their treatment plan accordingly.
If you have any questions concerning this disease, or any aspect of your pet’s health care, please do not hesitate to call us at (909) 980-3575. We serve the communities of Alta Loma, Rancho Cucamonga, Upland, Ontario, Claremont, Fontana, and the Inland Empire.