Hypoadrenocorticism, more commonly known as Addison’s Disease, is a disorder of the endocrine system that develops due to a lack of adequate production of the adrenal hormones, especially cortisol.
Adrenal hormones control the water, sugar and salt balance in the body, contribute to the metabolization of proteins, carbohydrates and fats, help to regulate blood pressure, heart rate and blood sugar levels, and are extremely important in stress response. This disease is rare, but very dangerous. It is commonly misdiagnosed, as it closely mimics other, much more common diseases.
About 70% of the canine cases are female dogs, with a median age of 4 to 6 years old, and while any breed can be diagnosed with the disorder, there are breeds which can be predisposed to Addison’s. While this disease can mimic many other ailments, once it has been diagnosed, a course of treatment must be considered. To date, there is not a cure for dogs that have been diagnosed with Addison’s disease. Prednisone, fludrocortisone, and Percorten V are a few of the medicines which are regularly used to treat Addison’s; however, they can cause the dog to experience a long list of potential adverse side effects.
Symptoms of Addison’s Disease in Canines
As mentioned above, Addison’s disease can exhibit clinical signs of other ailments, because the symptoms are normally nonspecific and vague. They can transpire suddenly and be quite severe, or appear slowly and sporadically, with variances in the severity. Signs can include lack of appetite, weight loss and anorexia, depression, lethargy, vomiting, weakness, dehydration, diarrhea, muscle weakness, lack of appetite, polydipsia (significantly increased water consumption), and polyuria (significantly increased urine output).
Diagnosis of Addison’s Disease
Stress has a direct affect on dogs with Addison’s disease. The adrenal glands of dogs that have Addison’s are not creating enough cortisol naturally; therefore they cannot handle stress like other canines. However, since overt clinical signs are not normally observed until nearly 90% of the dog’s adrenal cortex has been destroyed, signs are often very subtle, or wax and wane until the pet crashes in what’s termed an “Addisonian Crisis.” Unfortunately, diagnosis of Addison’s in 30% of dogs does not occur until they have progressed to an adrenal crisis that is life-threatening.
A CBC (complete blood count) test performed in the lab might find abnormalities that hint at hypoadrenocorticism. Anemia, high amounts of lymphotcytes, and high amounts of eosinophils could indicate Addison’s. A serum chemistry profile might reveal potential clues, as well. A high concentration of potassium, urea nitrogen, creatinine, phosphorus, calcium, a low concentration of sodium or glucose, or a low ratio of sodium/potassium could also be clues. A low sodium/potassium ratio is a key finding in many cases of Addison’s. However, not all Addisonians have that finding. A smaller liver or heart that is revealed in chest and abdominal x-rays is a result of the state of shock that Addison’s causes a dog to experience, reducing the amount of fluid volume that is circulating in the body.
Homeopathic Treatment for Addison’s Disease in Dogs
Severe cases of Addison’s should be treated with traditional western therapies, such as Percorten or Florinef. However, mild cases can sometimes be managed quite effectively with herbal remedies. If you would prefer to take the homeopathic route to treat your Addison’s canine, there is a variety of herbs to choose from. Just like any other treatment, it is wise to consult with your veterinarian before you start treating your dog with herbal supplements. It will be vital to understand the proper dosing and which supplements should be combined together to achieve the best results for your Addisonian canine.
These are extremely dilute tinctures which are utilized to manipulate the emotional and mental well-being. Because Addison’s disease is associated with lethargy and depression, flower essences can help to facilitate the elimination of depression. A recent analysis performed by Jeffery R. Cram discussed five outcome studies on flower essences and how to use them to reduce or eliminate mild to moderate depression.
Siberian Ginseng and Huang qi
According to the University of Maryland, Siberian ginseng increases vitality, longevity and energy. These herbs are known to fortify the body and assist it with fending off stress, as well as support healthy functioning of the adrenal glands. These are essential properties for fighting Addison’s disease. Siberian Ginseng also aids in increasing the appetite.
This herb is predominantly effective in relieving emotional and physical stress; stimulates digestion, and controls vomiting and nausea.
Borage oil, evening primrose oil, black currant oil
An Associate Professor at the University of Florida’s Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences says that autoimmune disorders can be treated with these essential oils. These oils are rich in gamma-linolenic acid, which is known to support healthy skin and reduce inflammation. According to Dr. RM Clemmons, DVM, Ph. D, dogs should be administered 500mg of any one of these oils once a day for the smaller and medium breeds and larger breeds should be given the same dose two times per day. Dr. Clemmens also says that you should be prepared to wait about 6 to 8 weeks before you notice a change in your dog.
A study in The New Zealand Veterinary Journal revealed that a dog who suffered from abnormally high amounts of potassium in the bloodstream, called hyperkalemia, did not respond to the normal treatment, Florinef. When given a form of licorice, which hails from the root of Glycyrrhiza glabra, the canine’s potassium levels came back to normal again. The licorice contains glycyrrhetinic acid and glycyrrhizinic acid, which are supposed to increase activity of the mineralocorticoids, the hormones that control the water and salt balances. Licorice is also known to reduce stress.
Green tea is known for being rich in antioxidants and has antibacterial properties, which do not necessarily relate to Addison’s. However, the tea is also known to eradicate free radicals, it is a natural metabolism booster, prevents rapid increases in blood sugar levels and lowers high blood pressure, boosts the immune system, and will increase overall energy levels.