Adrenal glands are part of your dog's endocrine system. They are located next to the kidneys, and they produce many types of hormones that are essential to normal body function. The hormones we will be focusing on here are produced by the outer part of the adrenals, the cortex. These are called corticosteroids. Sounds familiar? Yes, that's right, that is what corticosteroid medications are—a synthetic form of one of the adrenal gland hormones.
Aldosterone is a hormone that regulates your dog's electrolyte levels. It helps control both sodium and potassium in order to maintain blood pressure and fluid balance.
Cortisol is released in order to help your dog respond to stress. Cortisol can affect blood pressure and blood sugar levels, fat metabolism, muscle and kidney function and immune response.
Addison's versus Cushing's
Even though you couldn't tell by their names, these two diseases represent deficient and excess conditions of the adrenal gland hormones. Addison's disease is also referred to as hypoadrenocorticism and Cushing's disease is can go by the name hyperadrenocorticism.
Because hormones produced by the endocrine system have regulatory function in the body, any imbalances in their Production or release can cause serious health problems.
Addison’s disease, or hypoadrenocorticism, is a relatively uncommon but serious deficiency condition during which your dog's adrenal glands produce insufficient amounts of the aldosterone and cortisol hormones.
Addison's disease can be caused by autoimmune destruction of the adrenal glands, or as a result of underproduction of the adrenal stimulation hormone. Some medications can also disrupt the adrenal balance.
The good news is, that like in the case of hypothyroidism, hypoadrenocorticism can be successfully managed with hormone supplementation.
Diagnosis of Addison's disease isn't easy, because the symptoms are common in many other conditions.
Some of the signs are
- loss of appetite
- low energy levels
Cushing’s disease, or hyperadrenocorticism, is an excess condition. Cushing’s is one of the most common hormone imbalance conditions in dogs. It is quite common in older dogs, and the symptoms are often dismissed as signs of aging.
If your dog has Cushing’s Disease, it means that he has excessive levels of cortisol in the body.
It can be caused by some medications, but most commonly it is caused by over-stimulation of the adrenal glands due to a tumor on the pituitary gland or a tumor on the adrenal gland itself.
Because cortisol reduces immune response, dogs with Cushing's disease will often suffer from frequent or recurrent infections.
Some of the signs of Cushings disease are
- excessive drinking
- increased urination
- potty accidents
- excessive appetite
- hair loss
- muscle weakness
- weight gain or pot-belly appearance
Pituitary-based Cushing’s disease is usually managed with oral medications, although more aggressive treatment is sometimes needed. If an adrenal tumor is to blame, surgery to remove the gland may be the best option.
Being forewarned is being forearmed. Be aware of health conditions your dog might face and be sensitive to potential signs of disease. Often, the sooner the problem gets addressed, the better chance your dog will have at living a long and happy life.
Veterinary Partner: Symptoms of Cushing's Syndrome
Veterinary Partner: What Exactly is Cushing's Disease
Veterinary Partner: Laboratory Hints Suggesting Cushing's Disease
In this series:
Hypothermia vs Hyperthermia
Hypothyroid vs Hyperthyroid
Addison's vs Cushing's
Hypoglycemia vs Hyperglycemia
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