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Dogs, cats and horses
May Be Prescribed by Vets for:
Stimulation of the adrenal cortex.
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Adrenocorticotrophic hormone (ACTH) is a pituitary hormone that stimulates the production and secretion of glucocorticoids by the adrenal gland. The release of ACTH is stimulated by corticotrophin-releasing factor and controlled by a negative feedback pathway in response either to endogenous or exogenous corticosteroids.
ACTH is used primarily in dogs and cats for diagnostic testing of hypo- and hyper-adrenocorticism. This test measures cortisol response to exogenous ACTH. The degree of response may help differentiate between primary and secondary hypoadrenocorticism and, in cases of suspected hyperadrenocorticism, this test may be used to differentiate between iatrogenic and spontaneous causation. ACTH stimulation testing also is used to monitor the response to Trilostane therapy in animals with pituitary-dependent hyperadrenocorticism.
Additional information regarding interpretation and protocols for ACTH stimulation testing may be found in many standard veterinary references including the Saunders Manual of Small-Animal Practice, Current Veterinary Therapy XII and Plumb's Veterinary Drug Handbook. One of the published protocols for dogs is a plasma or serum sample before and a second sample two hours after an intramuscular injection of 2.2Units/kg of ACTH gel. A similar protocol for cats is a plasma or serum sample before, at one hour and at two hours following an intramuscular injection of 2.2 Units/kg of ACTH gel. There are other published protocols and reference material should be consulted for interpretation information.
There are no specific circumstances when ACTH is indicated in horses. It is used as a means of stimulating endogenous corticosteroid release.
Corticotrophin (ACTH) Side Effects
When used for testing, ACTH is unlikely to cause significant side effects or toxicity. If used in a long-term or daily fashion, exogenous ACTH could produce side effects similar to overuse of corticosteroids.
A single overdose, such as may occur in a testing situation, is unlikely to cause significant toxicity. Long-term overuse of ACTH may result in toxicity similar to overuse/abuse of corticosteroids.
Dr. Barbara Forney is a veterinary practitioner in Chester County, Pennsylvania. She has a master's degree in animal science from the University of Delaware and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine in 1982.
She began to develop her interest in client education and medical writing in 1997. Recent publications include portions of The Pill Book Guide to Medication for Your Dog and Cat, and most recently Understanding Equine Medications published by the Bloodhorse.
Dr. Forney is an FEI veterinarian and an active member of the AAEP, AVMA, and AMWA.
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