Symptoms of Addison’s disease are not so specific in dogs. Moreover, even these vague symptoms vary over a period, leading to a situation where dog owners are not even sure of its prevalence. Addison’s disease generally occurs due to autoimmune conditions.
Although it is not a conclusive diagnostic procedure, it is important to look for the level of primary ions of electrolytes like sodium and potassium. The proper amount and distribution of electrolytes in the body are essential for your dog’s health. Final diagnosis of Addison’s disease, however, is done only after checking the response of the dog’s body to ACTH, a hormone secreted by the anterior pituitary gland to stimulate the adrenal cortex to produce its own hormones.
Addison’s disease is basically a production disorder and is caused by an insufficiency of hormones secreted by the adrenal cortex. This is unlike canine Cushing’s disease, which is caused by excessive production of adrenal hormones. Addison’s disease is managed by giving supplemental hormones. Aldosterone, a corticosteroid hormone produced by the adrenal glands that regulates salt (sodium and potassium) and water balance, needs to be supplemented. This is achieved by administering a mineralocorticoid that influences the metabolism of sodium and potassium. Synthetic minerlocorticoid hormones are available in pills as well as in injectable form. The other hormones secreted by the adrenal cortex, cortisol or glucocorticoids, also need to be replaced through oral administration of prednisone.
In normal routine, the level of these hormones has to be monitored, as there may be a need to reduce dosages or even discontinue medication. As Addison’s disease usually evades detection, the dog may face a crisis situation with abnormally high levels of potassium. In such instances, dexamethasone, a fast-acting potent glucocorticoid, may have to be injected.
Alternative and complimentary therapies can play an important role in the management of autoimmune diseases. These therapies basically focus on nutritional support and herbs meant for strengthening the body’s self-healing ability.
Addison’s disease, like Cushing’s disease in dogs, is an immune-mediated disease where the dog’s immune system attacks its own organs. Whereas low level autoimmunity is necessary for the immune system to develop self-immunity against disease-causing pathogens, high level autoimmunity leads to autoimmune diseases like canine Cushing’s and Addison’s disease. For effective management of Addison’s disease, it is necessary that you feed your dog with food actually meant for the species, preferably raw foods or foods cooked at home. In addition, there are Oriental as well as Western herbs that can be given with food or as supplements. It is important to remember that the story of autoimmune diseases does not end with a prevalence of manageable symptoms. The crisis led by failure to treat in time may prove to be unmanageable.