Q. Our 7-year-old Beagle-Lab mix has just been diagnosed with Addison’s disease. What info, management tips, etc., can you give? There is a lot of information on what Addison’s is, but not much help with coping long term.
A. Dogs diagnosed with Addison’s Disease can do quite well and have a long, healthy life if they are monitored and medicated regularly. This is easier said than done, and requires a significant time and financial commitment from you, the pet owner.
Addison’s Disease refers to an inability of part of the adrenal gland to secrete hormones necessary for the regulation of important electrolytes such as potassium, sodium, and the stress hormone cortisol.
Most, but not all, dogs with Addison’s Disease are middle-aged and female. Bearded Collies and Standard Poodles seem to be more prone to it, but it can affect any breed, any sex or any age dog.
Signs of Addison’s Disease in dogs can be subtle, but usually involve weakness, vomiting or diarrhea, lethargy or collapse. Diagnosis is done with a very specific blood test, done after injecting a hormone specifically designed to stimulate cortisol secretion.
Treatment consists of supplementing the missing hormones that will help regulate potassium, sodium and cortisol. This can be done with a daily oral pill, or an injection given about every 25 days. In either event, blood levels of sodium, potassium and cortisol need to be checked on a regular basis to make sure the dose of medication is accurate.
You can also notice subtle signs that the disease may not be well controlled, such as listlessness, loss of appetite, vomiting or diarrhea.
Work closely with your veterinarian on rechecks and follow up. Good luck, and hopefully your pooch will do well.