Canine Addison's Disease

Addison's disease, also known as hypoadrenocorticism, is a deficiency of the production of steroid hormones, which are produced by the adrenal glands. Female canines under the age of 5 are more prone to developing Addison's disease. However, it can affect any breed, at any age. If detected, the condition is fully manageable though the administration of hormones and by reestablishing a normal hormonal balance.

Causes of Addison's Disease

Addison's disease is a deficiency of the adrenal gland, which fails to produce a sufficient amount of hormones, mainly mineralocorticoids and glucocorticoids. The cause of the disease is thought to be an immune system deficiency.

Other common causes of Addison's include:

  • Infections of the adrenal gland
  • Tumor in the adrenal gland
  • Trauma to the gland
  • Sudden stop of the administration of corticosteroids such as prednisone or prednisolone
  • Overdoses of drugs used in Cushing's disease

Symptoms of Addison's

Addison's disease does not have specific symptoms, but a dog with Addison's may display:

  • Lack of appetite
  • Weakness
  • Lack of activity and more sleeping hours
  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Increased thirst
  • Shaking
  • Frequent urination

The symptoms may be present and then suddenly disappear. A dog with Addison's may suffer from a crisis; he may collapse and be in shock. Typically, these symptoms will point towards a more serious disease such as Addison's.

Diagnosing Addison's

Addison's disease can be diagnosed through a number of tests. Typically, the lack of hormones will alter the results of a lot of clinical tests and the disease may be accidentally detected during a routine testing. A dog with Addison's will have a smaller heart and a larger esophagus. During an EKG testing, an elevated level of potassium will show. The best way to detect the disease is by performing the ACTH stimulation test. The levels of cortisol will be measured prior to the administration of a synthetic hormone.

Treatment Options

The treatment will be dictated by the severity of the disease.

  • If there is a deficit of fluids and the dog has been displaying Addisonian crisis symptoms, an immediate fluid therapy is needed.
  • The medication will focus on replacing the deficit hormones. The dog may receive glucocorticoids orally or through injections.
  • Mineralocorticoid replacement drugs may also be needed if the dog experiences an electrolyte imbalance.
  • Glucose and insulin may also be prescribed if the dog has serum potassium concentrations that are over the normal chart measurements.

Prognosis and Prevention

A dog with Addison's disease may live a normal life if he receives the right amount of hormones that are not produced by his adrenal gland. The dog must be monitored and frequent visits to the vet are necessary in order to ensure that the hormone therapy is working and the amount of hormones is suitable.

Being a disease of the adrenal gland, Addison's cannot be prevented; the only case in which the disease is preventable is when the administration of prednisone is abruptly interrupted. When under medication with corticosteroids, always consult the vet before interrupting the treatment of your dog.