Addison's disease (a hormone disorder)
Hypoadrenocorticism (Addison's Syndrome), is a disease where the adrenal glands do not work as normal for unknown reasons. Animals with this condition are normally not able to produce enough corticosteroid and aldosterone by the adrenal glands. Cortisol is a natural happy drug. It helps animals to get through any stressful situation by increasing blood sugar and relieving pain. Aldosterone another enzyme works on the kidney to balance blood sodium and potassium levels which are critical to muscle and heart activity. Therefore, most affected animals do not show any symptom unless they undergo a stressful situation, such as another sickness.
The clinical signs are vague, so it can be just from being unwell, inactive, off food to vomiting, diarrhoea, drinking /urinating a lot, and abdominal pain. This can be managed by taking supplementary hormone tablets and checking blood electrolytes regularly.
Molly’s Story -Diary of an Addison’s Patient
“Through the owner’s eyes”
9th December 2005
Molly was taken to the vet Friday lunchtime with vomiting and upset stomach, which she’d had before and was just a stomach infection. She’d been lethargic and shivering all week, but we thought it was due to builders out the back making loud scary noises (she’s a bit jumpy like that). Turned out her temperature and heart rate were low, so they wanted to keep her for x-rays and blood tests. They called back later to say it would be best if we took her to an Emergency Centre as soon as we could because she would need constant monitoring over night. By this stage she was very dopey.
We had to ring in every couple of hours to check on her and it sounded at first as though she had stabilised, but later her heart rate got slower and the blood test came back to say she had a dangerous potassium electrolyte level. The vet said she most likely has Addison's disease, which is treatable, but right now she was suffering the acute form and may not live through the next 24 hours as she may have a heart attack, which they could not stop.
Poor Brad had to do all the telephoning and then tell me that Molly might die in the next day and we might not even see her again... As you can imagine that created some emotional scenes here, I could not stop crying for hours & poor Brad was crying too. We couldn’t sleep Friday night, got about 3 hours all up.
Went to visit her on the Saturday afternoon and she seemed better, but was still rated critical. Rang every few hours again last night and eventually her vital signs and the latest blood test confirmed she was off the critical list. They now just needed to get her eating, we tried with her food when we went to visit, but she wasn’t interested.
Anyway, we went to visit this morning (Sunday) and she was allowed to come home with us! She’d finally eaten something – good girl! Another test this morning confirmed Addison’s. She will have a messed up immune system for a while and will need medication daily for the rest of her life, but once she stabilises properly with the medication she should be able to have a normal life. We are both just so relieved that she’s better now; it was such a close call.
13 December 2005
She’s been waking up at 5AM (!!!) and hungry which is good (except for the hour!) because she has her appetite back – has to take two tablets twice a day until finished (about a month I think) and then continues on with the other one for life (half a tablet now daily) plus an injection every month and a blood test on a monthly to two monthly basis, depending on her results.
Molly has been doing very well and has been visiting our hospital for follow up blood profiles, to check her hormone levels and maintain her correct medication dosage.