Addison's Disease in Dogs

Often caused by an underlying autoimmune condition, Addison's Disease is a hormonal disorder seen in dogs that is characterized by a low hormone output by your pup's adrenal glands. Here, our Las Vegas vets explain more about this serious condition and how Addison's Disease in dogs can be treated.

What is Addison's Disease in dogs?

The hormonal condition known as hypoadrenocorticism, or Addison's disease in dogs, is characterized by low adrenal gland hormone production. An autoimmune disorder that attacks and damages the adrenal glands because the dog's immune system views them as a threat is often the cause of Addison's disease.

Although it is much more rare, Addison's Disease can result from damage to your dog's adrenal glands caused by infection or trauma, or treatment for Cushing's disease. A secondary form of Addison's can stem from a tumor or defect in the pituitary gland, or suddenly stopping long-term steroid treatment.

What is the role of adrenal hormones? 

The two main hormones created by the adrenal glands are cortisol and aldosterone.

Cortisol controls blood pressure, metabolism, the synthesis of glucose, the breakdown of fat and proteins, the suppression of inflammation, the stimulation of red blood cell formation, and the body's reaction to stress.

Aldosterone regulates organ functioning that balances your pet's sodium and potassium levels which are responsible for maintaining optimal fluid levels within your pup's body.

Are some breeds more likely to develop Addison's Disease?

Any dog, regardless of age or breed, can contract Addison's disease, but female dogs in their early to middle years and those belonging to the following breeds are more likely to get it: Leonbergers, labrador retrievers, Portuguese water dogs, bearded collies, standard poodles, and duck tolling retrievers from Nova Scotia are among the breeds represented.

What are the symptoms of Addison's Disease in dogs?

Like many other conditions, Addison's disease in dogs can have ambiguous symptoms. The following are Addison's disease symptoms. It's imperative that pet parents comprehend that these symptoms can fluctuate in intensity and occur intermittently. 

  • Lack of energy
  • Weight Loss
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Increased thirst
  • Increased urination
  • Bloody stools
  • Shaking 
  • Weak pulse
  • Irregular heart rate
  • Painful abdomen
  • Hair loss
  • Skin pigmentation
  • Hypoglycemia

What is an Addisonian crisis?

The symptoms of Addison's disease can be very severe and develop suddenly. This is known as an Addisonian crisis. An Addisonian crisis manifests as potentially fatal symptoms like shock and collapse. Take your dog to the vet right away if it displays these symptoms!

What is Atypical Addison's Disease in dogs?

Dogs with atypical Addison's disease have milder symptoms, which makes the illness even harder to identify. Shock, severe dehydration, or Addisonian crisis do not appear in these dogs. Atypical Addison's disease in dogs can cause vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, appetite loss, or weight loss.  Before their diagnosis, these dogs usually have intermittent or chronic gastrointestinal problems.

How is Addison's Disease in dogs diagnosed?

When Addison's disease is acute and severe, during an Addisonian crisis, most cases of the disease in dogs are found. The dog will undergo blood work and urinalysis once their condition has stabilized in order to check for signs of the disease, such as anemia, elevated potassium and urea levels in the blood, and abnormal levels of calcium, chloride, and sodium. It is possible to do an ECG to find out if your puppy's heart rate is changing.

The adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) stimulation test is used to determine how well your dog's adrenal glands are functioning and is used to reach a definitive diagnosis of Addison's Disease. 

What is the treatment for Addison's Disease in dogs?

If your dog has suffered from an Addisonian crisis hospitalization and intensive care will be necessary to stabilize your pup's condition. Once your dog is out of immediate danger your vet will prescribe one or more replacement hormone medications to help get your dog's hormones back to normal levels. 

While there is no known treatment for Addison's disease in dogs, the illness can be controlled with continuous hormone replacement therapy and routine blood work to monitor electrolyte and hormone levels, allowing for necessary medication adjustments. It will take some time and some trial and error to find the right replacement hormone drugs and strengths, so exercise patience.

It is essential for owners of dogs with Addison's disease to take their dog in for regular examinations and never adjust the medications without explicit instructions from the veterinarian. 

What is the life expectancy for dogs with Addison's Disease?

Dogs with Addison's Disease can live a relatively normal life with proper treatment and disease management.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

If your canine companion is displaying symptoms of Addison's Disease, contact our Las Vegas vets right away to book an appointment. Our vets are experienced in diagnosing and treating conditions such as Addison's Disease in dogs.