Addison's Disease in Dogs

Both humans and dogs alike can be affected by Addison’s disease. This disorder occurs when the adrenal glands cannot make enough hormones in order for normal endocrine function to take place. Located just above the kidneys, the adrenals glands make important glucocorticoids (such as cortisol) and mineralocorticoids (such as aldosterone). 

Why does my dog have Addison's disease?

When the adrenal glands do not produce enough hormones, the electrolyte and metabolic balance can both become negatively affected. The mineralocorticoids are especially essential in the controlled production of potassium, salt, and water inside your dog’s body. 

This imbalance of hormone production may lead to serious cases of hypocortisolism, hypoadrenocorticism, adrenal insufficiency, or even death if left untreated for prolonged periods of time.

Most often of autoimmune origin, other illnesses or processes like a metastatic tumor or trauma to the adrenal glands. There may be a genetic component as well. Breeds predisposed include the Bearded Collie, Portuguese Water Dog, and the Standard Poodle, among others. The disease is most often seen in young to middle-aged female dogs.

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

Ranging in the level of severity, some of the most common symptoms of Addison's disease in dogs include:

  • Weakness, and excessively fatigue
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Frequent urination
  • Increased thirst
  • Lack of appetite
  • Weight loss

In severe cases, the symptoms can progress to weak pulse, dehydration, irregular and slow heart rate, and collapse.

How will the vet treat Addison's disease?

Your veterinarian will run tests on your dog. A diagnosis of hypoadrenocorticism may mean a prescription of an injectable drug (along with oral medication), given every three to four weeks. You can learn to do the injections at home. Other dogs will be treated with medication in pill form only. Prescriptions are decided upon on a case by case basis. The prognosis for a dog with Addison's disease is favorable, especially if it was diagnosed early on. 

Dogs in the later stages who arrive at the clinic will need hospitalization for intravenous hydration and other medical aid before the treatment plan is put in place. The prognosis is still good. Medications are required for the rest of your dog's life. Stress is a contributor to the disease, so work on minimizing the amount of stressful situations your furry buddy encounters. If you are traveling with your dog or have to put them in a boarding facility, talk to the vet to see if the hormone medication needs to be adjusted prior. Make sure you exercise your dog regularly; it is essential to a long and happy life.

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