What is Addison's disease?

What is Addison's disease? (Q) My dog has been diagnosed as having Addison's disease. Can you tell me more about it? She's on medication but she's up and down.

(A) Vet Roberta Baxter says: Addison's disease is caused by under-activity of the adrenal glands, which results in an underproduction of the body's natural steroids.

Affected dogs have trouble regulating their electrolyte levels, and often become weak and lethargic, and also struggle to deal with stressful situations.

The disease is diagnosed following specific blood tests, and can be treated with daily supplementation of mineralocorticoids, and intermittent supplementation of glucocorticoids as well at times of stress.

Regular blood tests are used to monitor progress and confirm the correct dose of medication. Most dogs do very well once they are stable on medication, and as long as they are not subjected to too much change or stress.