Sometimes a practitioner will try to treat the underlying adrenal problem of SARDS — elevated adrenal sex steroids due to insufficient cortisol — by prescribing nutritional supplements. These are generally labelled as “adrenal support formulas”. These can pose several problems for SARDS dogs.
Remember, the adrenal glands of SARDS dogs do not seem to work like other dogs. Other dogs can convert the building blocks of cortisol (called deoxycortisols and pronounced dee-ox-ee-kor-ta-zol) into cortisol.
This is the normal cortisol pathway: 21-deoxycortisol is converted into 11-deoxycortisol, which is then converted into cortisol.
SARDS dogs appear unable do this. In SARDS we see an accumulation of deoxycortisol:
It’s like water piling up behind a dam:
SARDS dogs seem to be lacking the enzyme that converts deoxycortisol to cortisol. As deoxycortisols accumulate, they’re shunted into a separate pathway of the adrenal gland: the sex steroid pathway. This is depicted on the right side of the chart below.
Consequently, SARDS dogs routinely produce excessive sex hormone STEROIDS due to the blocked cortisol pathway. In humans, we know this to be a genetic predisposition which does not reverse itself. In other words, no amount of nutritional or herbal “support” or “balancing” can fix this.
Adrenal Support supplements can pose three problems for SARDS dogs:
1) These supplements contain ground-up adrenal glands from either pig or cattle sources. And while these ground-up glands may provide a small amount of cortisol for the dog, they also provide all of the adrenal sex steroids and all of the precursor hormones that may be converted into additional sex steroids! An owner could conceivably increase the levels of sex steroids.
2) As I mention above, no amount of “support” cures the blocked cortisol pathway. These supplements don’t repair nor do they supply the enzyme (that SARDS dogs seem to be lacking). Nor do they reverse any genetic predispositions to this problem. The underlying problem is not addressed.
3) Lastly, the use of these supplements will preclude the dog owner and practitioner from seeking true treatment (LOW-dose, daily cortisol replacement). So even though adrenal support formulas are thought to be a gentle way to heal the adrenal glands, these dogs continue to suffer inadequate cortisol production and elevated sex steroids.
See additional SARDS RESOURCES here.