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Symptoms of Addison's Disease in Dogs & How it is Treated

Symptoms of Addison's Disease in Dogs & How it is Treated

An underlying autoimmune condition often triggers Addison's Disease in dogs, which is marked by reduced hormone production in your pup's adrenal glands. In this article, our Palmyra vets will provide further insights into this significant condition and discuss treatment options for dogs with Addison's Disease.

What is Addison's Disease in dogs?

Hypoadrenocorticism, commonly known as Addison's Disease, is a hormonal disorder that affects dogs. It is characterized by a low production of hormones from the adrenal glands. The disease is mostly caused by an autoimmune disorder in which the dog's immune system attacks and damages the adrenal glands. 

Although rare, Addison's Disease can also be caused by damage to the adrenal glands due to infection, trauma, or treatment for Cushing's disease. Additionally, a secondary form of the disease can stem from a tumor or defect in the pituitary gland or sudden cessation of long-term steroid treatment.

What is the role of adrenal hormones? 

The adrenal glands produce two main hormones - cortisol and aldosterone. Cortisol plays a crucial role in your dog's overall bodily functions, including regulating metabolism, glucose production, protein, and fat breakdown, blood pressure, inflammation suppression, red blood cell production, and stress response. Aldosterone, on the other hand, regulates organ function to balance your pet's sodium and potassium levels, which are responsible for maintaining optimal fluid levels in your furry friend's body.

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

While any dog, regardless of breed and age, has the potential to develop Addison's Disease, it is more commonly observed in young-to-middle-aged female dogs, as well as certain breeds such as 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?

Like many conditions, symptoms of Addison's Disease in dogs can be vague and common to many other conditions. Typical symptoms of Addison's Disease include those listed below. It's important for pet parents to note that these symptoms may come and go, and vary in intensity. 

  • 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?

Dogs with Atypical Addison's Disease typically experience less severe symptoms of the disease, making the conditions even more challenging to diagnose. These dogs do not present in Addisonian crisis or suffer from severe dehydration or shock. Signs of atypical Addison's Disease in dogs may include vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, lethargy, or weight loss.  Typically these dogs experience chronic or intermittent gastrointestinal issues leading up to their diagnosis. 

How is Addison's Disease in dogs diagnosed?

Most cases of Addison's Disease in dogs are diagnosed during an Addisonian crisis when the condition is acute and severe. Once the dog's condition has been stabilized, bloodwork and urinalysis will be done to look for signs of the disease, such as anemia, high potassium and urea levels in the blood, and unusual levels of sodium, chloride, and calcium. An ECG may also be done to detect any changes in your pup'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. 

How is Addison's Disease in dogs treated?

If your dog experiences an Addisonian crisis, immediate hospitalization and intense care are necessary to stabilize your pup's condition. Once your dog is out of danger, the vet will prescribe hormone replacement medications to normalize hormone levels.

Although there is no cure for Addison's Disease in dogs, it can be managed through ongoing hormone replacement therapy and regular blood tests to monitor hormone and electrolyte levels.

It may take some time to find the right hormone replacement medications and strengths through trial and error, so patience is key.

Owners of dogs with Addison's disease must schedule regular check-ups with their vet and should never alter 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 Palmyra vets right away to book an appointment for your pet. 

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