Canine Addison’s Disease

An important part of treatment for Addison’s disease is to reduce stress.

Addison’s disease is an endocrine disorder that develops as a result of insufficient production of adrenal hormones by the adrenal gland. While Addison’s disease in dogs is fairly uncommon and seldom occurs in cats. Canine Addison’s disease has a greater chance of occurring in certain breeds, such as poodles, German Shepherds, Great Danes, Airedales or St. Bernards.

The adrenal glands secrete several different hormones such as corticosteroids, androgens and mineralocorticoids. These hormones metabolise proteins, fats and carbohydrates, and regulate the balance of water, salt and potassium. The adrenal glands also secrete adrenalin, which controls the body’s reaction to stress. They regulate blood pressure and heart rate, plus maintain blood sugar levels. Thus, imbalances in hormonal levels can disrupt all of these bodily systems.

The signs for Addison’s disease are variable and may be few in number in some patients (such as with the chronic form of the disease) or may be severe and life threatening in others (such as with an acute addisonian crisis). Signs include lethargy and weakness, poor appetite, vomiting, weight loss, diarrhea, shaking, increased thirst & increased urination. These signs can easily be confused with non specific diseases especially gastrointestinal disease or renal disease, so it is very important that they be examined by a professional.

A general blood test will alert a vet that something is not right. It is common to see electrolyte disturbances and sometimes anaemia (low red blood cell count) or even liver enzyme elevation. There is usually disturbances with kidney function as well. Because these results are indicative of Addison’s but not diagnostic, a second test is usually run to confirm the disease.

The exact cause of Addison’s disease is not known. However, it is believed that the adrenal glands are damaged by the animal’s own immune system. Other factors that may contribute to the cause of Addison’s disease includes hereditary factors, infections, pituitary gland disease, trauma, cancer, or the discontinuation of steroid medication. There is no cure for Addison’s disease, but with early diagnosis and long-term treatment your pet can still enjoy quality of life.

 Treatment of animal’s with Addison’s disease normally consists of a life long hormone replacement which may need to be increased during periods of stress such as travel, hospitalisation and surgery. They usually need to have weekly blood tests until their hormones are stabilised, then a blood test monthly to check their electrolytes & kidney function for the first 3-6 months, then every 3-12 months.

Natural and holistic remedies can also be used as part of a broader treatment approach to reduce the symptoms of Addison’s disease in pets. Herbal and homeopathic remedies are safe and effective, and help to support the overall health and well-being of a dog.

Carefully selected herbs such as Chamomile and Ginger promote systemic balance in the endocrine system responsible for maintaining body temperature, metabolism, fertility and growth. Ginkgo leaf extracts help increase blood flow to the brain. Ginseng is an adaptogenic herb that helps the body adapt to environmental and emotional stressors. It works on the pituitary and adrenal glands, increasing resistance to stress. Other herbs have been shown to be beneficial for adrenal function, include liquorice and borage.

 Another suggestion is 0ne cup of green tea a day added to food. As well as increasing energy, it’s seen as a ‘good general tonic.’ Flower essences to reduce stress and limit the need for additional glucocorticoids. Borage oil, primrose oil, and black currant oil are all natural sources of Gammalinolenic acid, which promotes healthy skin. Homeopathic ingredients such Cratageous and Nux vom supports the endocrine system and thyroid functioning.

While these natural pet treatments have been proven to compliment medical treatment, your dog or cat will still require your veterinarian’s standard treatment.

Altho’ diet cannot cure Addison’s disease, foods made of poor-quality ingredients or diets that lead to nutritional deficiencies are a significant source of stress, and additional stress is just what Addison’s dogs don’t need.

Because wheat, corn, and soy are problem ingredients for some dogs, many holistic veterinarians recommend avoiding them. Some tell their clients to avoid grains altogether. In general, foods made from high-quality animal-source ingredients that are easy to digest work best, but because individual responses vary, caregivers should observe their pets’ responses and avoid ingredients which seem to trigger symptoms.

The addition of probiotics can improve any dog’s diet, whether home-prepared, raw, cooked, canned, frozen, or packaged. Digestive enzyme powders are a sensible addition for any dog with digestive problems.

Except for animals with Addison’s caused by pituitary cancer or adrenal cancer, the vast majority of patients with hypoadrenocorticism have a good to excellent prognosis after proper stabilisation & treatment.

Caution – No herbal supplement should be given to a dog without the consultation of a qualified holistic veterinarian.