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Addison's Disease in Dogs

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 Brentwood vets explain more about this serious condition and how Addison's Disease in dogs can be treated.

What is Addison's Disease in dogs?

Hypoadrenocorticism, or Addison's Disease in dogs, is a hormonal disorder characterized by low adrenal gland hormone output. Addison's disease is frequently caused by an autoimmune disorder in which the dog's immune system views the adrenal glands as a threat and attacks and destroys them.

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 regulates metabolism and the production of glucose, the breakdown of fat and proteins, the regulation of blood pressure, the suppression of inflammation, the stimulation of the formation of red blood cells, and the response 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?

Addison's Disease can affect any dog, regardless of age or breed, but it is most common in young to middle-aged females and the following breeds: Nova Scotia duck tolling retrievers, Leonbergers, Labrador retrievers, Portuguese water dogs, bearded collies, and standard poodles.

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

The symptoms of Addison's Disease in dogs, like those of many other illnesses, can be ambiguous. The symptoms of Addison's Disease are the following:

  • 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?

Addison's Disease symptoms can appear unexpectedly and be severe. This triggers an Addisonian crisis. Addisonian crisis symptoms include shock and collapse, both of which are life-threatening. If your dog exhibits these symptoms, seek immediate veterinary care!

What is Atypical Addison's Disease in dogs?

Atypical Addison's Disease in dogs exhibits less severe symptoms, making diagnosis even more difficult. These dogs do not exhibit Addisonian crises, severe dehydration, or shock. Atypical Addison's Disease symptoms in dogs include vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, lethargy, and weight loss. Prior to diagnosis, these dogs typically had chronic or intermittent gastrointestinal issues.

How is Addison's Disease in dogs diagnosed?

The majority of Addison's Disease cases in dogs are discovered during an Addisonian crisis, which occurs when the disease is acute and severe. Once the dog's condition has stabilized, bloodwork and urinalysis will be performed to look for disease-related symptoms such as anemia, elevated potassium and urea levels in the blood, and abnormal sodium, chloride, and calcium levels. An ECG may be used to detect changes in your puppy's heart rate.

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. 

Although there is no cure for Addison's Disease in dogs, the condition can be managed with ongoing hormone replacement therapy and regular blood tests to monitor hormone and electrolyte levels, allowing medication adjustments as necessary. Finding the right hormone replacement medications and strengths will require some trial and error, so be patient.

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 Brentwood vets right away to book an appointment. Our vets are experienced in diagnosing and treating conditions such as Addison's Disease in dogs. 

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