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Addison’s Disease In Dogs

Addison’s disease, also known as hypoadrenocorticism, occurs when a dog’s adrenal glands produce fewer than necessary hormones in the body. As hormones control many crucial functions in the body, this imbalance leads to a variety of symptoms which can range from mild to life-threatening.

What is Addison’s disease in Dogs?

Addison’s disease, or hypoadrenocorticism happens when there is a lack of adequate mineralocorticoid and/or corticosteroid production by the adrenal glands. While the exact cause is not known; immune-mediated destruction is the likely reason. Addison’s disease generally starts with subtle signs, and only with stressful events occurring develops full-on. This happens once the majority of both adrenal glands are lost.

Which types of dogs are susceptible to Addison’s disease?

Young to middle-aged dogs are most often affected by Addison’s disease. Females have a higher incidence than males. The breeds most commonly affected are standard poodles and Portuguese Water Spaniels but many breeds can be susceptible. Addison’s disease is rare in cats.

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

Symptoms of Addison’s disease include lethargy, weakness, anorexia, vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss, and increased drinking/urination. In severe cases it can lead to cardiovascular collapse.

When is Addison’s Disease Life threating in Dogs?

Addison’s disease becomes life threatening when a crisis state occurs. During crisis, the dog is severely dehydrated and hypovolemic (having a decreased circulating blood volume) and cardiovascular collapse can occur, if aggressive treatment is not initiated. It’s important to seek professional veterinary help before your dog reaches this state.

Addison’s in Dogs Treatment

Initial treatment mostly entails aggressive fluid therapy, electrolyte control and steroid administration. Other symptomatic treatments for gastro-intestinal signs may be initiated. Through basic blood work a preliminary diagnosis can be made, when considered with the animal’s presentation. However, a definitive diagnosis can only be made through specific blood test. An ACTH stimulation test would be the definitive diagnostic of choice.

Long-Term of Addison’s Disease

Long-term treatment of Addison’s disease involves oral and/or injectable mineralocorticoid and glucocorticoid supplementation. Often the doses of chronic medications must be altered several times before the ideal dose is found. Sometimes animals that have been treated at a constant dose for quite some time will require dose adjustment. Pet owners must always monitor their pet for clinical signs, as a crisis event can come on relatively rapidly. Events that cause strees in your pet, for example, boarding at a kennel, grooming, or veterinary visit, often necessitate a higher dose of steroid. Frequently, extra oral prednisone will be sent home with the patient for use when stress is anticipated.

The key to managing an Addisonian pet is acting early if clinical signs become apparent. It cannot be stressed enough that delay can lead to crisis and cardiovascular collapse. Please seek professional veterinary help.

If your pet is experiencing a systemic allergic reaction to an insect bite or sting that has any accompanying facial swelling and or respiratory difficulties, this is an emergent situation and our ER team is here for you and your pet 24/7/365.

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