Addison’s disease is a condition affecting the adrenal glands. The adrenal glands are located near each of your pet’s kidneys. These glands are responsible for releasing hormones that maintain water balance and regulate electrolytes; sodium, potassium and chloride. Addison’s disease causes the adrenal glands to release less than normal amounts of these hormones. During times of stress, these hormones are needed by your pet’s body.
When the adrenal glands do not function normally, your pet can become severely dehydrated, become lethargic or tired, develop low blood sugar, and begin vomiting and/or have episodes of diarrhea. Animals can go into shock and die from this condition if left untreated.
To diagnose Addison’s disease, we perform blood tests that help us narrow down the problem by checking electrolytes and kidney values. Doctors must also rule out other causes for symptoms. If the doctor interprets abnormalities in the initial bloodwork that indicates a concern of Addison’s disease, they will request an ACTH stimulation test to be done. This test will confirm the final diagnosis of Addison’s Disease. The ACTH test challenges the adrenal glands. If your pet has Addison’s disease, the adrenal glands will not release enough hormone to properly respond to the stimulus.
Treatment consists of fluid therapy to improve hydration and medications to replace the hormones that the adrenal glands are not releasing properly. Long term management includes an oral corticosteroid supplementation and a monthly injection of DOCP. DOCP is a medication that helps the body manage electrolytes. DOCP should be administered by our team of doctors and technicians until your pet is fully regulated. Once regulated you may choose to administer the DOCP at home. There are other medications available, but this is the most common treatment.
Once diagnosed, Addison’s Disease is a life-long condition, and will require treatment and monitoring. However, with treatment and monitoring, most animals with Addison’s disease can live a long and happy life.