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 Union City 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, often known as Addison's Disease in dogs, is a hormonal condition characterized by decreased hormone secretion from the adrenal glands. Addison's disease is frequently caused by an autoimmune illness in which the dog's immune system perceives the adrenal glands as a threat and attacks and damages 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 synthesis of glucose, the breakdown of fat and proteins, the regulation of blood pressure, the suppression of inflammation, the stimulation of the development 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 fluids levels within your pup's body.

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

Any dog regardless of age or breed can develop Addison's Disease however the condition is most often seen in young to middle-aged female dogs, 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 as follows. It's critical for pet parents to understand that these symptoms might come and go and vary in severity.

  • 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?

Symptoms of Addison's Disease can present suddenly and be extremely severe. When this happens it is known as an Addisonian crisis. Signs of an Addisonian crisis include life-threatening symptoms such as shock and collapse. If your dog experiences these symptoms immediate veterinary care is required!

What is Atypical Addison's Disease in dogs?

Atypical Addison's Disease in dogs has less severe symptoms, making the disorder even more difficult to detect.These dogs do not manifest with Addisonian crises, acute dehydration, or shock.Vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, lethargy, or weight loss are all symptoms of atypical Addison's Disease in dogs. These dogs typically have chronic or intermittent gastrointestinal difficulties prior to their diagnosis.

How is Addison's Disease in dogs diagnosed?

The majority of Addison's Disease cases in dogs are discovered during an Addisonian crisis, when the illness is acute and severe. Once the dog's condition has stabilized, bloodwork and urinalysis will be performed to test for disease-related symptoms such as anemia, high potassium and urea levels in the blood, and atypical salt, chloride, and calcium levels. An ECG may be performed 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 Diseases 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 treated with continued hormone replacement therapy and regular blood testing to evaluate hormone and electrolyte levels so that prescription modifications can be made as needed. Finding the correct hormone replacement drugs and strengths will take some time and 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?

With proper treatment and disease management dogs with Addison's Disease can have a relatively normal life expectancy.

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 Union City vets right away to book an appointment for your pet.