Addison’s disease in dogs is characterized by the decrease in the production of hormones by the adrenal glands. The disease is called the “The Great Pretender” since it is commonly misdiagnosed.
Its symptoms resemble the symptoms of many other diseases which makes it difficult to diagnose. Learn the causes of Addison’s disease, its symptoms, and ways to treat it.
What is Addison’s disease in dogs?
Addison’s disease, also known as hypoadrenocorticism, is a type of hormonal disorder. It occurs when there’s a decrease in the production of hormones, namely cortisol and aldosterone. These hormones are produced by the adrenal glands, which are two small glands located next to the kidneys.
Both are important hormones that play a big role in regulating the dog’s body systems and internal organs. If Addison’s disease is left untreated, it can be life-threatening. Fortunately, with proper treatment of Addison’s disease, canines that have the disease can live a long and happy life.
Two Types of Addison’s Disease
- Primary Addison’s Disease
This is the most common type of Addison’s disease. It is the result of your dog’s own immune system destroying the adrenal gland itself. It can be subdivided into two types:
It is a result of an adrenal dysfunction causing glucocorticoid and mineralocorticoid deficiencies.
It occurs when the adrenal cortex continues to produce aldosterone but not cortisol. This may later on progress to primary Addison’s disease.
- Secondary Addison’s Disease
This is often caused by a health problem such as a pituitary tumour. Abruptly stopping the use of long-term steroid medications can also result in secondary Addison’s disease.
What triggers Addison’s disease in dogs?
The main culprit that triggers Addison’s disease is believed to be stress. During periods of stress, a dog’s adrenal glands will increase its cortisol production to calm him down.
For dogs with Addison’s disease, their adrenal glands will be unable to produce sufficient amounts of cortisol, thus, heightening their anxiety which may lead to the surfacing of different Addison’s disease symptoms.
What causes Addison’s disease in dogs?
Experts are continuing to uncover the causes of Addison’s disease. They have reasons to believe that the causes may be related to an autoimmune process. Another theory is that it is caused by the impairment of the adrenal glands. This can either be due to:
- Metastatic tumour
- Use of drugs that suppresses adrenal enzymes
Is Addison’s disease hereditary in dogs?
Addison’s disease is speculated to be an autoimmune-mediated hereditary problem. However, as stated above, there’s no definitive explanation of the causes and the mode of inheritance.
Is Addison’s disease contagious in dogs?
Addison’s disease is an autoimmune condition that is a result of hormonal imbalance. It is not infectious as this is only present in canines with low hormone levels.
What are the breeds prone to Addison’s disease in dogs?
Addison’s disease can affect any breed regardless of age or gender. However, young to middle-aged female dogs are more prone to developing this disease. Any dog breed including mixed breeds is at risk too. Certain dog breeds are predisposed to this condition such as:
- Airedale Terrier
- Bearded Collie
- Basset Hound
- German Shepherd
- German Shorthaired Pointer
- Great Dane
- Labrador Retriever
- Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever
- Portuguese Water Dog
- Saint Bernard
- Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier
- Springer Spaniel
- Standard Poodle
- West Highland White Terrier
What are the symptoms of Addison’s disease in dogs?
Signs of Addison’s disease may vary and that’s what makes it challenging to detect. The disease is usually diagnosed only when it reaches its acute stage called Addisonian crisis. This is characterised by life-threatening symptoms such as shock and passing out.
It is observed that the symptoms usually appear during stressful situations. Below is a list of clinical signs that your dog may be suffering from Addison’s disease:
- Loss of appetite
- Sudden weight loss
- Bloody stools
- Hair loss
- Excessive urination
- Excessive thirst
- Painful abdomen
- Weak pulse
- Irregular heart rate
- Skin hyperpigmentation
- Low blood sugar
How do you test for Addison’s disease in dogs?
The vet will perform a full physical exam and check your dog’s health records. Then, any of the following tests below will be recommended to determine his illness:
- ACTH stimulation test: To evaluate the cortisol levels in his blood.
- Chemistry test: To assess the function of his liver, kidney, and pancreas. His sugar levels will be checked through this test as well.
- Complete blood count (CBC): To exclude any blood-related conditions.
- Electrolyte test: To make sure that your dog is not suffering from electrolyte imbalance or dehydration.
- Electrocardiogram (ECG): To check if he has abnormal heart rhythm.
- Thyroid test: To find out if his thyroid produces only small amounts of thyroid hormone.
- Urine tests: To examine if he has urinary tract infection (UTI) and other kidney-related diseases. Urine tests also evaluate the ability of your dog’s kidney to concentrate urine.
How to treat Addison’s disease in dogs?
There is no cure for Addison’s disease as it is a lifelong condition. The best way to keep it from worsening is through long-term treatment. Dogs diagnosed with Addison’s disease will be prescribed with glucocorticoid and mineralocorticoid replacement medications.
Glucocorticoid Replacement Medications
This is a common medication used on both animals and humans for various health conditions. For dogs with Addison’s disease, only small doses are required compared to other pets with immune-mediated diseases.
This comes in two types: pills and injectables. If it’s difficult to get your dog to take a pill, an injectable is a great option. It is specifically made for pets and needs to be used once every 25 days. The vet may guide you to administer this medication since you may also need to do it at home.
How to prevent Addison’s disease in dogs
There is no way to prevent Addison’s disease. However, carefully choosing a healthy puppy will reduce the risk of him having this health condition. If you already have a grown dog, make sure that he is fully health checked.
Visiting the vet for regular check-ups will help you monitor your dog’s health. At the same time, it’s easier for the vet to detect early possible symptoms of Addison’s disease.