Addison’s disease, whether in dogs or humans, is an endocrine disorder in which the adrenal glands fail to produce enough hormones for normal function.
Addison’s disease is a severe or total deficiency of the hormones made in the adrenal cortex, caused by a destruction of the adrenal cortex. There are normally two adrenal glands, located above each kidney. The adrenal glands are really two endocrine glands in one. The inner part of the adrenal ( called the medulla ) produces epinephrine ( also called adrenaline ) which is produced at times of stress and helps the body respond to “fight or flight” situations by raising the pulse rate, adjusting blood flow, and raising blood sugar. However, the absence of the adrenal medulla and epinephrine does not cause disease.
In contrast, the outer portion of the adrenal, the cortex, is more critical. The adrenal cortex makes two important steroid hormones, cortisol and aldosterone. Cortisol mobilizes nutrients, modifies the body’s response to inflammation, stimulates the liver to raise the blood sugar, and also helps to control the amount of water in the body. Aldosterone regulates salt and water levels which affects blood volume and blood pressure. Cortisol production is regulated by another hormone, adrenocorticotrophic hormone (ACTH), made in the pituitary gland which is located just below the brain. Classical Addison’s disease results from a loss of both cortisol and aldosterone secretion due to the near total or total destruction of both adrenal glands. This condition is also called primary adrenal insufficiency. If ACTH is deficient, there will not be enough cortisol produced, although aldosterone may remain adequate. This is secondary adrenal insufficiency, which is distinctly different, but similar to Addison’s disease, since both include a loss of cortisol secretion.
Addison’s disease in Dogs
Addison’s disease occurs much more frequently in dogs than in humans; in fact, it may occur one hundred times more often in the canine population. It mostly affects young to middle-aged female dogs, as the average age at diagnosis being four years old. About seventy percent of dogs that are diagnosed with Addison’s disease are female. Statistics gathered from a large veterinary hospital placed the number at 0.36 dogs per 1000.
Symptoms of Addison’s Disease
Addison’s disease is not usually apparent until over 90% of the adrenal cortex has been destroyed, so that very little adrenal capacity is left. This can take months to years and is known as primary adrenal insufficiency. Symptoms of the disease, once advanced, can include severe fatigue and weakness, loss of weight, increased pigmentation of the skin, faintness and low blood pressure, nausea, vomiting, salt cravings and painful muscles and joints. Because of the rather non-specific nature of these symptoms and their slow progression, they are often missed or ignored until, for example, a relatively minor infection leads to an abnormally long convalescence which prompts an investigation.
Long term use of high doses of steroid drugs to treat other illnesses (for example high–dose prednisone for bowel disease or asthma) can also cause temporary or permanent loss of adrenal function. This is often referred to as secondary adrenal suppression.
Symptoms of Addison’s disease in dogs can include vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, lack of appetite, tremors or shaking, muscle weakness, low body temperature, collapse, low heart rate, and pain in the hind quarters.
Treatment of Addison’s Disease
Addison’s disease – Homeopathy Treatment & Homeopathic Remedies
This is the most homoeopathic of all remedies to this disease. Both the disease and drug have nerve depression, gastric irritation, general debility, feeble heart action and tendency to vomit. The skin symptoms have also a curious similarity; both the burning and the discoloration have been found in several cases of poisoning by Arsenic.
The disease, though considered an incurable one, may have its development arrested by the proper remedy. Among other remedies to be thought of are: Thuja; Natrum muriaticum, which especially corresponds to the languor, muscular fatigue, indigestion, melancholia, etc., so often present at the onset of the disease; Belladonna, Calcarea carbonica, Iodine and Phosphorus. Arsenicum iodatum is also especially worthy of a trial. Tuberculinum may also be well indicated.Boenninghausen gives Antimonium crudum, Nitric acid, Secale and Spigelia as remedies producing a bronzed skin. Argentum nitricum is a promising remedy and has greatly benefited one case. It produces loss of appetite, chronic wasting and diarrhea. The fact that it stains the skin by its chemical action is of no therapeutic value. Argyria is not Addison’s disease.