Though Addison's disease can be a very serious health condition for your dog, the most difficult aspect of this disease is getting a positive diagnosis. Due to the generality of the symptoms of Addison's disease, it is often mis-diagnosed, or ignored completely by pet owners.
A positive diagnosis of your dog for Addison's disease may take some time, but once you are aware of your dog's condition, the treatment options available are fairly straightforward and usually very effective.Most of these treatments use medications to replace the lacking hormones in your dog's body, usually cortisol or aldosterone. In serious cases of Addison's disease, your dog may have to be hospitalized for several days to receive constant medication and hormone therapy.
Using intravenous saline is sometimes an immediate veterinary treatment once your dog has been positively diagnosed with Addison's disease. This is combined with intravenous supplements of dextrose, along with injections of hydrocortisone. Usually, this procedure is only done in very severe cases of Addison's disease, or if your dog is having an “addisonian crisis”(in which high levels of potassium, low glucose levels, and low blood pressure are at a life-threatening level).
This is also an immediate treatment that may be done by your veterinarian as soon as a positive diagnosis for Addison's disease is confirmed. Since the adrenal glands are not producing enough cortisol, an injection of synthetic cortisol may provide immediate relief for some of your dog's symptoms.
Hydrocortisone tablets are part of the maintenance treatment therapy usually required by dogs with Addison's
disease. Because your dog's adrenal glands are not functioning, it may be prescribed by your veterinarian
to give your dog Hydrocortisone tablets once or twice per day. Hydrocortisone tablets are also called “Cortef”,
and help to restore normal levels of cortisone in your dog's body.
Since Cortef is used as a replacement for the cortisone normally secreted by your dog's adrenal glands, it is possible that your veterinarian may have to raise or lower your dog's dosage until you begin to see significant improvement. Cortef is part of a lifetime treatment for your dog, as they will require Hydrocortisone tablets for the rest of their life.
Fludrocortisone acetate acts as a replacement for the hormone aldosterone. Aside from producing cortisol, the adrenal glands are also responsible for producing aldosterone. Addison's disease is only caused by improper production for aldosterone in very rare cases, as cortisol deficiency is much more common. Aldosterone is responsible for maintaining blood pressure, and the water to salt balance in the body. Aldosterone helps the kidneys to retain sodium while excreting potassium. A deficiency in Aldosterone is very serious, and requires that your dog start a medication therapy with Fludrocortisone acetate immediately.
Prednisone is a corticosteroid that helps to restore normal levels of cortisol in your dog's body. Prednisone can be taken either orally or intravenously, depending on your veterinarian's specific directions for your dog's prescription.