Adrenal Disease

What is adrenal disease?

Adrenal disease comes in two flavors: hyperadrenocorticism and hypoadrenocorticism.

Hyperadrenocorticism, or “Cushing’s disease,” is caused by excessive production of cortisol by the adrenal glands. It is caused by either a pituitary gland tumor or an adrenal gland tumor. Both causes behave adversely by not allowing the body to respond to its inhibitory signals that tell the adrenal glands to stop producing cortisol. The end result is a list of clinical signs that include drinking and urinating more, eating more, enlarged livers, hair loss, lethargy, muscle weakness and atrophy, panting, obesity, and hypertension.

Hypoadrenocorticism, or “Addison’s disease,” is an endocrine disorder caused by a deficient production of glucocorticoids, mineralocorticoids, or both. The clinical signs of Addison’s disease can be anywhere from small to acutely life-threatening. They may include depression, weakness, dehydration, collapse, hypothermia, weak pulse, bradycardia, painful abdomen, or hair loss.

How do we treat adrenal disease?

Before treating adrenal disease, we must first diagnose it. Both Addison’s disease and Cushing’s disease can be diagnosed with a blood test called an ACTH stimulation test. Sometimes further testing is necessary when diagnosing Cushing’s disease. In those cases, we perform low-dose and high-dose dexamethasone tests. Occasionally, we will even CAT scan patients to determine overall disease involvements.

Addison’s is treated by stabilizing critical animals with hospitalization, fluids, and steroids. Stable animals are often maintained on monthly Percorten injections. Occasionally they are given steroids to supplement their glucocorticoid deficiencies.

Cushing’s is treated with once- to twice-weekly lysodren tablets or daily Vetaryl (trilostaine) capsules. In a few treatment protocols, ketoconazole or Selegeline have been used. It is important to note that treating Cushing’s disease has a more favorable prognosis when the cause of the disease is a pituitary gland tumor.

How is our treatment exceptional?

Treatments for Addison’s and Cushing’s are made exceptional at Austin Vet by our ability to quickly diagnose as well as monitor these patients. We always carry adequate diagnostic and treatment supplies and are able to run our blood tests in-hospital. We have our own CAT scan for diagnosing very complicated Cushing’s patients as well as multiple techniques for monitoring secondary complications such as high blood pressure, liver disease, diabetes, and electrolyte abnormalities.

If you wish to learn more, we invite you to call us at (512) 288-1040. We look forward to hearing from you!