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Addison’s Disease in Dogs-Part 2 of 4 Part Series

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Last week I wrote about common symptoms of Addison’s disease.  Many Addison’s characteristics are very similar to other illnesses which often leads to a misdiagnosis.

This week, I’m going to cover how to confirm your dog has Addison’s.  The test that confirms an Addison’s diagnosis is called the ACTH (adrenocorticotropic hormone) Response Test.

With the ACTH, the dog’s blood is tested to measure the level of cortisol. Then the dog is injected with a pituitary hormone that would normally signal the adrenal glands to start producing cortisol.  An hour after the injection, another blood test is done to measure the cortisol level.  In healthy dogs, the cortisol level rises.  If the dog’s cortisol level was low before the injection, and is still low afterward, this confirms the dog has Addison’s.

Subsequent testing can then determine if the dog’s case is primary or secondary Addison’s.  Making this determination will determine the course of treatment going forward.

There are a couple of situations that closely mirror Addison’s and often cause misdiagnosis.  One is whipworms, which cause low sodium and elevated potassium levels.  Fecal tests for these worms can give a false negative because eggs aren’t produced very often.

The other situation are dog breeds that originated in the Pacific Rim region of the world.  These breeds include the Akita and Shiba Inu.  Dogs from this region tend to have higher that normal potassium levels, which is also a symptom of Addison’s.

Both of these situations will have a normal ACHD test result.  Because Addison’s does have so many symptoms common to other illnesses, it’s important to confirm the diagnosis before beginning the course of treatment.

Next week I’ll be covering treatment for Addison’s Disease-Part 3 of a 4 part series

Reference:  Whole Dog Journal, October 2011


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