To understand exactly what an Addisonian crisis is, it is first important to explain what Addison’s disease is. Addison’s disease, scientifically known as hypoadrenocorticism, is a disease of the adrenal gland and it is caused by a decreased production of hormones from the outer part, or cortex, of the adrenal gland. The adrenal glands are small glands that are located near the kidneys. The glands produce two essential hormones for normal body function regulation: cortisol and aldosterone. You may recognize the name cortisol as a stress hormone, and aldosterone is the hormone that regulates the body’s levels of sodium and potassium – two very important minerals for maintaining fluid balance and blood pressure in the body.
The primary cause of Addison’s disease in dogs is some form of immune-mediated damage to the adrenal tissue, however, the tissue may also become damaged by trauma or infection. A much less common cause of hypoadrenocorticism is a tumor or defect in the pituitary gland – the hormone regulator in the brain. Patients may also develop Addison’s as a result of long-term treatment with steroids for other medical conditions, although this is also rare.
Clinical signs of Addison’s disease can be quite subtle and easily confused with other disease processes, therefore they are often overlooked or missed altogether. The most common symptoms include lethargy, diarrhea, vomiting, increased thirst and urination, and unexplained weight loss. Some patients may also experience sporadic episodes of shaking or collapse.
So what is an Addisonian crisis?
When a patient with hypoadrenocorticism is presenting with a very sudden onset of all of the above symptoms, this is considered an Addisonian crisis and should be treated as a medical emergency. Oftentimes this will lead to sudden weakness and even collapse, and it is crucial that a veterinarian treats the patient as quickly as possible. Overall, however, the majority of patients with Addison’s disease have a very positive prognosis once the condition is properly diagnosed, stabilized, and managed with an appropriate treatment plan.
Toronto AMS is here to assist! If your pet is experiencing mobility issues related to an addisonian crisis, you might require special provisions to transport them to your veterinarian to receive care. Our team is equipped to safely, and comfortably, transport your pet with trained veterinary professionals on board every ambulance. This includes professional restraint and handling techniques such as the use of stretchers and gurneys in a temperature controlled environment. Our team of empathetic, pet passionate professionals looks forward to supporting you and your furry loved ones!
Caitlyn A. is an RVT and a valued member of Toronto AMS.