Canine Addison's Disease Symptoms

Canine Addison's disease is also known as hypoadrenocorticism and it is caused by a deficiency of the hormones produced by the adrenal glands. In some ways, it is the opposite of canine Cushings disease, a condition in which the adrenal glands produce too much cortisol.

Addisons disease in dogs is believed to be caused by an autoimmune condition that causes the body to destroy its own tissue-in this case, the adrenal gland. Other conditions can, however, damage the adrenal glands and cause Addison's disease. Dogs who have cancer in other parts of the body may develop the disease.

Addison's disease causes a reduction in the production of aldosterone. This, in turn, affects potassium, sodium and chloride levels in the blood. Potassium may build up in the blood and cause irregular or slow heartbeat. In severe cases, dogs may become weak or go into shock.

While any dog can develop Addison's disease, some breeds are more prone:

  • Portuguese Water Dogs
  • Bearded Collies
  • Standard Poodles
  • Great Danes
  • Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers
  • Airedale Terriers
  • Basset Hounds
  • Springer Spaniels
  • West Highland White Terriers

Symptoms of Addison's disease include:

  • Repeated episodes of vomiting and diarrhea;
  • Appetite loss;
  • Dehydration;
  • Rapid weight loss;
  • General poor health.

Untreated, Addison's disease can be serious. Consequences such as shock and kidney failure can occur suddenly.

Diagnosing Addison's Disease

Your veterinarian will diagnose Addison's based on your dog's history and symptoms in addition to laboratory tests and adrenal function evaluation.

Confirming blood test results will show:

  • Low levels of blood sodium
  • High levels of blood potassium
  • Adrenal function tests will measure the amount of cortisol in the blood. If it is low, adrenocorticotropin, an adrenal gland stimulating hormone, will be administered. Cortisol levels are then retested. If there is little or no response to the adrenocorticotropin, it can be assumed that your dog has Addison's disease.

Adrenal Crisis

A severe case of adrenal deficiency is a veterinary emergency. Intravenous fluids will be needed to restore normal levels of fluid, salt and blood glucose.

Treatment for Addison's Disease

Once diagnosed, your dog will begin hormone replacement therapy. Regular veterinary visits will be needed in order to monitor hormone levels and adjust medications if needed.

Typically, your veterinarian will prescribe fludrocortisone acetate or Percorten-V. A short course of prednisone may be prescribed as well.

Diet to Battle Addison's Disease in Dogs

  • A well-balanced, high-quality diet is important for all dogs, but for dogs battling Addison's disease, it's especially important. Choose a brand that contains an easily digestible, named meat as its firstingredient.
  • Many dogs are allergic to common dog food ingredients. Look for foods that do not contain corn, wheat or soy.
  • Avoid foods that contain synthetic preservatives like BHT, BHA or ethoxyquin.

Supplements to Manage Addison's Disease

Consult with your veterinarian when choosing supplements for your Addison's dog.

Beneficial supplements may include:

  • Multivitamin with vitamins C, E & A to support immune function
  • Nettle, dandelion and spirulina contain vitamins and minerals that support adrenal function
  • Probiotic supplement to replenish beneficial intestinal bacteria and assist digestion

Properly treated, canine Addison's disease can be managed successfully. Dogs with Addison's disease can lead long, full and active lives.