What is Addison’s Disease in Pets

Addison’s Disease: Hypoadrenocorticism in Pets
By Dr. Ed Mapes
Stonebridge Animal Hospital
McKinney, Texas

What is Addison’s Disease in Pets

Gastric Dilatation Volvulus (GDV) is a life threatening condition that can occur in any dog but is most frequently seen in large breed, deep-chested dogs with narrow waists. Great Danes and Doberman Pincers are especially at risk. This condition, also known as “bloat,” arises when the stomach twists out of its normal position. This twisting (volvulus) prevents escape of stomach gases and also pinches off blood vessels to the stomach.

Addison’s Syndrome Symptoms in Pets:

Lethargy, weakness, and muscular shaking are signs that can help differentiate Addison’s from many other diseases. Early diagnosis, before the disease progresses to severe levels, can be very important. Preliminary blood and urine testing is done to explain the symptoms; those results can bring about the need for other blood tests to confirm Addison’s.

Types of Addison’s Syndrome in Pets
Not to be confusing, but there are two other types of Addison’s (atypical and secondary) that further tests can help to diagnose. These are quite rare, though, and will not be discussed in this article.

Treating Addison’s Disease in Pets
I have had patients brought to the hospital fully recumbent and unaware of their surroundings due to Acute Addison’s Syndrome. These constitute emergency cases and require rapid infusion of saline solution and corticosteroids, along with other medications so indicated to stabilize the patients so that diagnostics can proceed.

More typical cases present with milder symptoms, and treatment is usually begun when testing reveals a diagnosis of Addison’s. This usually involves intravenous administration of fluids, cortisone, and other medications to overcome dehydration and to normalize cortisone and electrolyte levels. This usually takes only a day or two in the hospital.

Ongoing Care for Addison’s Syndrome in Pets
Maintenance of chronic Addison’s cases usually involves administering prednisolone on a daily basis along with approximately monthly injections of another drug (desoxycorticosterone pivalate or fludrocortisone) that controls electrolyte levels. We monitor electrolyte and other blood chemistry levels at weekly intervals for three weeks to ensure appropriate dosage of the medications and prevent a relapse of symptoms.

Electrolyte levels should be monitored on a maintenance basis thereafter, but these patients can usually enjoy quite normal lives if maintained on this regimen.

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