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What is Addison's disease?
Addison's disease, or 'hypoadrenocorticism', is a condition in which the adrenal gland (a small gland next to the kidney) does not produce enough hormones. Normally the adrenal gland produces a corticosteroid hormone called cortisol and a hormone called aldosterone as well as other substances such as adrenaline. In Addison's disease these hormones are deficient.
How is it caused?
Causes for Addison's disease include trauma to the gland, tumours, infections, and auto-immune disease.
What are the symptoms of Addison's disease?
Symptoms are often non-specific, such as vomiting, weight loss, inappetence, diarrhoea, increased thirst and urination, abdominal pain and sometimes shaking. In rare cases the patient may get what is called an 'Addisonian Crisis': this causes weakness and collapse, vomiting and diarrhoea.
How is it diagnosed?
The condition is diagnosed on the basis of the above symptoms together with blood tests.
What is the treatment?
Treatment is in the form of long-term medication and sometimes dietary management. In more serious cases the patient may have to be hospitalised and put on a drip for some time. From time to time your vet may decide that your dog needs further blood tests to monitor the treatment and possibly to alter the medication.
Anal gland disease is a common problem in dogs. The anal glands, also called 'anal sacs,' can become impacted, infected, and abscessed. Affected pets may lick the anal area, 'scoot' along the floor, or have problems with defaecation.
Location and function of anal glands
As the dog is viewed from behind, anal glands (also called anal sacs) are located on each side of, and slightly below the anal opening, at the 4 o'clock and 8 o'clock positions. A tiny duct or tube leads under the skin to an opening directly beside the anus.
All predators have anal glands. They just use them differently. Dogs use them primarily for territory marking or as a form of communication. In dogs, every time a stool is passed, it should put enough pressure on the anal glands that some of the secretion is deposited on the surface of the stool. Other dogs are then able to tell who has been in the neighbourhood, just by sniffing the stools they find. Additionally, dogs recognise each other by smelling each other in the general area of the anus, since each animals' anal glands produce a unique scent.
Diseases of the anal glands
Impacted anal glands are a very, very common problem for dogs, especially the smaller breeds.
Anal glands may also become infected and abscess. Bacteria make their way into the glands, probably through the ducts. This is a very painful condition, and the first sign you may see is that your dog attempts to bite or scratch when you touch the area near the tail.
Treatment and prevention
When the glands become impacted, a veterinarian, groomer, or the pet's owner must clean them out or 'express' them. This empties the glands of all material. It is done by applying pressure with the finger and thumb with the index finger inserted in the anus. In some dogs, this needs to be done every month.
Impacted glands do not affect the overall health of the pet. The problem is that pets may injure the anal area when scooting across the ground, or discharge the secretion on the carpet or floor. This material has a terrible odour.
If an individual pet only has an occasional problem with the gland, they can be dealt with as needed. However, for pets with repeated or chronic problems, surgical removal of the glands is recommended. With the removal of these glands all problems associated with these glands are eliminated for the remainder of the pet's life. Although a fairly simple procedure, complications such as faecal incontinence can rarely occur.
Dogs with recurrent anal gland impactions are often placed on a high fibre diet. This makes the animal's stool more bulky. The stool will put more pressure on the anal glands and hopefully the glands will express themselves when the animal defaecates.
What is Atopy or Atopic Dermatitis?
Canine atopy is one of the causes of a very itchy or as we say 'chronically pruritic' dog. They bite and scratch themselves so much that they cause a secondary skin infection with loss of fur typically in these places:
The skin thickens and goes black to protect itself from all the scratching. The fur on the paws of white dogs tends to go pink or light brown from all the licking.
Atopy usually starts at the age of between 6 months and 3 years.
It is a very well known condition in Terriers and typically affects the West Highland White Terriers. It is a very fortunate Westie owner who has a Westie with perfect skin. Labradors, Golden Retrievers, German Shepherd Dogs, Bull Terriers, Boxers, Setters and Shar-peis also seem to be affected. Other breeds can be affected too and it is up to us as vets to diagnose it.
Parasites and Dietary Problems
The possibility of all the scratching in your pet must have been ruled out by using good veterinary flea treatment and we are able to do skin scrapings to rule out the possibility of it being a mite infestation.
The same goes for ruling out a dietary allergy.
How to Manage your Atopic Dog
We advise and you decide on the course of treatment for your pet for these reasons:
What is an aural haematoma and how is it caused?
An aural haematoma is a collection of bloody fluid within the earflap. Sometimes blood clots are present as well. It shows as a swelling of the earflap or pinna. This swelling is often warm, but not painful. Most dogs will scratch or shake their head. It is thought that it may be caused by the vigorous shaking of the ear, resulting in the rupture of small blood vessels.
Treatment can be one or more of the following:
1. A course of tablets.
2. Draining the fluid through a needle. Some dogs will have to be sedated for this. This procedure may have to be repeated.
3. Surgical drainage of the fluid, under general anaesthetic. This is normally only done if the swelling involves the entire earflap. After draining the fluid, stitches are placed through the entire thickness of the earflap. In some cases there is a concurrent external ear infection present, which will need treatment at the same time.
Autoimmune haemolytic anaemia (AIHA) is a disease in which the body attacks its own red blood cells. In dogs with AIHA, red blood cells are still being manufactured in the bone marrow, but once released into the circulation, they have a shorter-than-normal life span, since they are constantly being attacked and destroyed by abnormal antibodies in the blood. Antibodies are normally formed by the dog's immune system when needed to destroy invading bacterial or viral signs. However, with AIHA, the dog's immune system is not working normally and sees its own red blood cells as foreign and therefore produces antibodies to destroy them.
What are the symptoms?
A dog suffering with AIHA will have a lower-than-normal number of red blood cells within the blood. This is termed anaemia. The lips, gums, and eye margins will appear pale (or yellow in the later stages of the disease) and not the normal pink to red colour. Commonly, the dog will be tired and lethargic as there are not enough red blood cells to carry oxygen to the tissues.
What is the Treatment?
Most dogs with AIHA will respond to steroid therapy. The steroid prednisolone has been widely used to treat AIHA. Drug therapy may be required for months to years. Prednisolone suppresses the immune system, helping to prevent red blood cell destruction. There are other drugs used with steroids in severe cases.