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Your Guide to Addison’s Disease in Dogs

Addison's Disease in Dogs

Addison’s Disease is a lesser known, and serious, disease that can occur in cats and dogs. That being said, it’s much more common in our canine comrades than our feline friends. Here’s everything you need to know about Addison’s Disease in dogs.

What is Addison’s Disease?

Addison’s Disease, also called hypoadrenocorticism, is a condition that affects the adrenal glands and causes them to stop producing much-needed hormones. These hormones include steroids, aldosterone and cortisol, which regulate your pooch’s organs. While the consequences can be serious, dogs can live a full life if properly treated. If left untreated, Addison’s can result in death.

Reduced aldosterone production can result in different serum levels of chloride, sodium and potassium. This can all greatly affect the kidneys which will cause problems with the circulatory system and heart. Reduced cortisol levels cause problems with your dog’s glucose production, metabolism, fat and protein breakdown, blood pressure, red blood cells, ability to reduce inflammation and ability to manage stress.

Addison’s Disease occurs in all types of dogs, but is more common in young, female and middle-aged dogs. It is also more common in certain breeds, such as Great Danes, Portuguese Water Dogs, Soft-Coated Wheaten Terriers, Bearded Collies, West Highland White Terriers, Standard Poodles and Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers.

What Causes Addison’s Disease in Dogs?

Veterinarians don’t know the cause of most cases of Addison’s. In rarer cases, Addison’s results from destruction of the adrenal gland. This can be caused by hemorrhages, tumors, disease, infarctions, adrenolytic agents or certain drugs.

What Are Addison’s Disease Symptoms in Dogs?

Addison’s Disease can be tricky to recognize since the symptoms are common to those of other conditions and they can increase and decrease as time goes on. Here are some signs that might mean your dog has Addison’s:

  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss
  • Diarrhea
  • Depression
  • Decrease in appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Blood in stool
  • Loss of hair
  • Increased thirst
  • Increased peeing
  • Dehydration
  • Trembling
  • Weak pulse
  • Low body temperature
  • Irregular heart rate
  • Hypoglycemia
  • Abdominal pain
  • Skin hyperpigmentation

How Do Veterinarians Diagnose Addison’s Disease?

Addison’s is usually diagnosed when dogs are experiencing serious complications, otherwise known as an Addisonian crisis. This is why it’s important to contact your veterinarian at the first sign of symptoms. Once a vet stabilizes the dog, the vet performs tests to rule out other diagnoses. Generally, blood work, an electrocardiogram (ECG), adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) stimulation test and urinalysis will confirm that it’s Addison’s Disease.

What Are Treatments for Addison’s Disease in Dogs?

There is no cure for Addison’s Disease. Dogs undergoing an Addisonian crisis will be hospitalized and receive intensive therapy. Then they will get several medications for the rest of their life, including a monthly injection and daily steroid. Most dogs will also have yearly or biannual blood work to make sure their symptoms are under control.

However, with proper treatment, dogs can live a long and happy life!