Diagnosing Addisons Disease in Dogs

Addisons Disease in dogs occurs when your dog's pituitary gland stops making adrenocorticotropic hormone. These hormones are responsible for stimulating the adrenal gland to manufacture glucocorticoid steroid, a steroid that helps the body make blood glucose from protein and fat. Without glucocorticoid steroid and adrenocorticotropic hormone, your dog can die. Find out how to recognize the symptoms of canine Addison's Disease before it's too late; read on below.

Canine Addison's Disease Explained

Vets don't know what causes canine Addison's Disease; most cases occur without a known cause. However, injury, fungal infection, cancer and genetics may all play a part in the development of this illness. Addison's Disease is a rare condition, but it can occur in any breed of dog.

Addison's Disease occurs when your dog's pituitary gland fails to produce adequate amounts of the pituitary hormone, adrenocorticotropic hormone or ACTH, which stimulates your dog's adrenal gland to make glucocorticoid steroid. Your dog needs these hormones and steroids; without them, his body can't metabolize fat and protein into blood glucose, and he could die.

Symptoms of Canine Addison's Disease

The symptoms of canine Addison's Disease can be very similar to the symptoms of many other disorders and diseases. Female dogs older than seven years of age are most at risk.

Symptoms of canine Addison's Disease include:

  • Lethargy
  • Weakness
  • Depression
  • Diarrhea and vomiting
  • Lack of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Excessive thirst
  • Excessive urination
  • Dehydration
  • Increased heart rate

When blood hormone and corticosteroid levels fall too low, your dog could suffer from shock and potentially deadly collapse.

Diagnosing Addison's Disease in Dogs

Because the symptoms of Addison's Disease are similar to the symptoms of many other disorders, such as kidney disease, this condition can be hard to diagnose. In many cases, incorrect diagnosis isn't noticed right away because the administered treatments make your dog initially feel much better. However, a relapse of Addison's symptoms is inevitable without appropriate treatment.

Your vet will need to perform blood tests to check your dog's blood levels of ACTH. The test takes about two hours, but it's a definitive means of diagnosing Addison's Disease in dogs.

Treating Addison's Disease in Dogs

If your dog develops canine Addison's Disease, the missing steroid hormones in his body will need to be replaced with medication. Vets typically prescribe Prednisone, a glucocorticoid medication, or Florinef, and mineralocorticoid, for the treatment of Canine Addison's Disease. Your dog will need a higher dose of these medications initially, but your vet will have you gradually reduce the dose to a safer maintenance level. Long term use of drugs such as these can have dangerous side effects. Be careful to administer all medications according to your vet's instructions.

Canine Addison's Disease is rare, but life threatening. With proper medication and management, your dog can enjoy a normal quality of life for many years to come. Your dog will need blood work regularly so that your vet can closely monitor his kidney function and electrolyte levels, and you'll need to monitor your dog closely for the complications related to long term steroid drug use.