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Addison's Disease Treatment

Addison’s disease is a serious condition affecting the adrenal glands and their production of vital hormones. It is much more common in dogs, but can also be found in cats. Addison’s disease will not resolve on its own, and if left untreated can be life-threatening. If your pet has been diagnosed with the condition, read on to know what you can expect in terms of treatment.

Diagnosing Addison’s disease

Before treatment can begin, you will obviously need a formal diagnosis of the disease. Often pets are only diagnosed when the disease has reached a point where it causes an Addisonian crisis, though it is possible it can be diagnosed earlier.

Your dog or cat may display many of the symptoms associated with Addison’s disease, but symptoms alone will not be enough for a diagnosis. Your vet will need to run a serious of tests, initially to rule out other conditions. High levels of potassium and urea in the blood can be an indicator of Addison’s disease, but the definitive test is what’s known as the adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) stimulation test.

Once the diagnosis has been confirmed, the course of treatment will depend on the type and severity of symptoms that your pet is experiencing.

Acute episode treatment

Due to the non-specific nature of its symptoms, Addison’s disease is often not diagnosed until the animal reaches a crisis point. If your dog or cat has reached this stage of the illness, it will need to be hospitalized immediately so that its condition can be stabilized.

In the hospital, your vet will treat both the symptoms and the cause. Initially, your pet will require intravenous fluids containing glucose and electrolytes to treat dehydration and shock. But most importantly, your pet will require cortisol to readdress the hormone imbalance and prevent further problems. With treatment, dogs should show signs of improvement within 24 hours, while cats may take up to 3-5 days.

Once your pet has been stabilized and is clear of the crisis, your vet will work with you to create a long-term treatment plan.

Ongoing treatment and management

You should be aware that there is no cure for Addison’s disease, and any pet with the diagnosis will require ongoing treatment. However, the treatment is very straightforward and consists of a hormone supplement to replace what that adrenal glands are no longer producing. This can be administered as a daily oral application, or an injection given every 3-4 weeks.

Initially, it may take some time to determine the exact dose that your pet requires, so in the first month of treatment, you may need to visit your vet every week. Once the dose has been established, your dog or cat will need regular checkups and test of their blood and urine to ensure that their hormone levels are properly maintained.

As animals age, they may require changes to their medication. And some pets will require additional hormones at certain times of stress, such as traveling or boarding. The good news is that with the correct care plan, your four-legged friend can live a long and healthy life.

If you’d like to know more about the condition, refer to our overview of Addison’s disease.

Addison's Disease Treatment

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