The cause, effects and treatment for Addison’s disease in Dogs

addisons disease

The hypoadrenocorticism or adrenal insufficiency is familiarly known as “Addison’s” disease, which is not common in dogs, but it also has more chances to occur in them. The symptoms of this disease are so similar to other conditions, and because of this reason we might miss to notice the effects and we may not take that much serious about those effects. Currently, there are so many types of diagnose process and treatments available for identifying and curing Addison. Almost all the pet owners will always keep on eyeing their dogs and they keenly follow their dogs’ activities. If we find out any difference or the first sign of sickness, immediately take that dog to the hospital and give sufficient treatment.

What is Addison’s disease?

Addison is a condition that affects the adrenal glands, which are located at top of the kidney. The outer area of these glands is called as cortex, which is responsible for secreting corticosteroid hormones. This process is commonly known as ‘cortisol’ and aldosterone. If the secretion of those hormones varies from either too low or too high in the overall levels, then the situation leads to Addison’s disease. Moreover, an array of serious problems may affect the dog’s health, if the disease is not treated properly.

This disease exists based on three forms, such as, primary, secondary and atypical. If the adrenal glands have been damaged, then it denotes either primary or atypical Addison. The secondary Addison’s disease is developed when the pituitary gland failing to stimulate the adrenals with a specified type of hormone known as ‘adrenocorticotropic’. At first, we must know about the type of Addison’s disease that the dog suffers from, so as to get a clear sketch to give proper treatment to the affected dogs.

Causes of Addison’s disease

There are three major reasons for Addison, which are given below:

  • Deficiency in the adrenocorticotropic hormone.
  • Metastatic tumours (the tumours that have spread from another area of the body).
  • A withdrawal of the glucocorticoid hormone, which occurs over a long period of time.

Symptoms of Addison’s disease in dogs

sick dog

The symptoms of Addison can be so indistinct. The main symptom is that, the disease affected dogs may start losing the sparkle in their eye. In addition to this, they can sometimes seem listless and depressed due to that fade in the sparkle. However, there are yet many other symptoms as listed below:

  • Lethargy.
  • Hair loss.
  • Vomiting.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Weight loss.
  • Dehydration.
  • Weakened pulse.
  • A drop in body temperature.
  • Pain in the hind quarters.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Increased thirst and urination.
  • Shakes, shivering, or muscle tremors.
  • Sudden collapsing or fainting.
  • Blood found in feces.
  • Pain in the abdomen area.
  • Muscle weakness, unable to jump onto furniture or go up steps.

One of the most common symptoms that is more scariest is, when the adrenal glands become so damaged that makes the affected dogs to have the episode of Addisonian crisis. If this happens, potassium levels will increase, which will disrupt the normal functions of the heart and can even cause arrhythmia and maybe kidneys will also start to fail.

Diagnosing Addison’s Diseases

taking blood sample

When we take our dog to the vet suspecting for Addison’s disease, at first they will test the dog’s electrode levels particularly for finding out the ratios of both sodium and potassium. If the dog has Addison’s disease, then that dog likely have low potassium level and high sodium level. Eventhough the electrode levels testing are so important, however, these levels alone will not perfectly diagnose the Addison’s disease. Moreover, these electrode levels do not show any difference when the dog has been suffering by secondary or atypical Addison.

In that situation, the vet will need to perform an ACTH stimulation or response test. This diagnosing test will determine corticosteroid hormone cortisol production capability of the adrenal glands. One blood sample will be taken first to see where the cortisol levels are currently situated. After that, the dog will be injected with a pituitary hormone, which will send the signal to the adrenal glands to produce cortisol. The injection needs nearly one hour to fully work and once that time is over, again the vet will have to take another blood sample for testing the cortisol levels. When the cortisol hormone level has not changed or still remains low, then the diagnosis of Addison’s diseases will get conclusive.

These blood sample tests are typically enough to diagnose Addison’s disease. Moreover, there are steps that will be finished beforehand to try and make it as comfortable and non-invasive as possible for our dog. These steps will include an entire medical history as well as the symptoms that our dog has been experiencing. Urine tests and physical examinations will most likely also be done before the cortisol test. If the vet is still having any doubts in the diagnosis, x-rays and ultrasounds may also be done for clarifying whether the adrenal glands have enlarged or shrunk from their normal size.

Treatment of Addison’s disease

dog injection

The treatment for this disease will depend upon how deeply our pet has been affected. If the condition has become severe, sufficient hospitalisation and intensive therapy may be required initially. In case the dog is severely dehydrated, fluids given intravenously, which may also be a part of the treatment.

Once we have been diagnosed the most severe symptoms from the dog, then we must need a regular and consistent treatment and also ensure a proper report that the dog doesn’t suffer anymore disease. The underlying treatment is the only way to control the deficiency of hormones in the adrenal glands. According to this treatment, the hormone replacement therapy will be required.

Hormone replacement therapy will be very intensive treatment at first. We must check the levels of hormones regularly for the first four weeks. The dog will need to be taken to the vet for that therapy. This way of treatment only makes the vet take properly records, maintain, and adjust the amount of hormones our dog needs. Once this initial therapy is complete and then the correct hormone dosage has been determined, the injections can usually be given on the monthly or every three weeks basis. During hormone replacement therapy both initial and on-going treatments must be followed properly. Especially, the electrode levels will also be checked regularly and ensure that they are at adequate levels. The disease of our pet will be maintained properly and reports of the various tests will also be checked regularly. Addison’s disease in dogs can be a very serious condition, but it’s definitely not a fatal one. The owner takes great precaution activities, proper treatment and compliance with their pet. If we follow these instructions, then dogs who suffer from Addison’s disease can still continue on to live healthily.


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