Addisons Disease In Dogs

Addison’s disease, also known as hypoadrenocorticism, is a rare disease in dogs that occurs when the adrenal glands of the dogs are damaged.

The damage causes the adrenal glands to stop producing their normal hormones. The endocrine tissue is destroyed and therefore production of the two hormones, glucocorticoids and mineralocorticoids, is significantly less.

addison diseaseHypoadrenocorticism occurs when the adrenal glands, which are near the kidneys, secrete fewer hormones and therefore can affect the dog’s normal bodily functions.  Blood cell activity, the ability to control salt intake and other kidney functions will be altered.

Some dogs are diagnosed with Addison’s disease in the early stages, while most are found when the dog is already severely affected.  It’s important to watch for the signs. 75% to 80% of dogs with Addison’s disease are female.

Breeds Prone To Addison’s Disease

There are certain breeds that are more prone to having Addison’s disease:

  • Poodle
  • Great Dane
  • Labradors
  • Rottweiler
  • Portuguese Water Spaniel
  • Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier
  • West Highland White Terrier
  • German Shepherds
  • German Shorthaired Pointers
  • Basset Hounds

Symptoms

The symptoms of Addison’s disease might come and go which makes it seem less serious to pet owners.

But, when it does come on strong, it can cause a dog’s heart rate to slow down, a low pulse and even collapse.

Some of the early symptoms are the following:

  • Loss of Appetite
  • Depression
  • Severe Thirst
  • Weak
  • Shaking
  • Urination is more frequent
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain

Types

Addison’s disease is the disruption of two steroidal hormone:

Mineralocorticoids

Essential in regulation glucose, fat and protein, blood pressure and red cell formation.

Glucocorticoids

Helps kidneys function by maintaining the correct water, potassium and salt levels.

When the two hormones are not producing normally, Addison’s disease is the likely culprit.

Causes

Some other potential causes of Addison’s disease:

  • Inflammation
  • Cancer
  • Infection
  • Trauma to the glands
  • Steroid treatment withdrawal
  • Drug therapy
  • Less blood to adrenal glands
  • Adrenal gland failure

Diagnosis

It’s important to see your vet right away if you think your dog has Addison’s disease or any of the related symptoms.

Addison’s disease is easily misdiagnosed because it is very similar to many other illnesses.

Its symptoms are very close to:

  • IBD
  • cancer of the gastrointestinal tract
  • acute renal failure
  • urinary blockage
  • pancreatitis
  • hyperparathyroidism
  • protein-losing enteropathy

This is why it’s important to catch the disease in the early stages.

Your veterinarian will check your dog’s heartbeat and pulse which will indicate whether or not the Addison’s disease has reached a critical phase.  An electrocardiogram can also determine if the dog’s pulse is irregular.

Blood tests will be taken to measure your dog’s sugar and potassium levels.  An ACTH test is another blood test that tests how the adrenal gland responds to what is known as the adrenocorticotropic hormone.

A urinalysis could be performed to see if the urine has been diluted, which might indicate Addison’s disease.

Treatment

As with any disease, the treatment for Addison’s disease will depend on the symptoms and whether your dog has reached the critical phase.  Quick action needs to be taken when your dog is diagnosed in the crisis or critical phase.

The most common treatment is the intravenous of fluids because the dog is typically severely dehydrated.

Corticosteroids are often given to help regulate the hormone levels.  There are also different medications that are administered to help regulate the heart.

If your dog’s hormonal and electrolyte balance are back to where they should be as well as the calcium, sodium, and sugar levels, this is a sign that your dog is in the recovery phase.  When treated intravenously in the hospital, your dogs’ levels could be back up to normal in just a few hours.

Management

After your dog has fully recovered, you will need to see your veterinarian every 3 months for the first year following the diagnosis.  Further, you will need to give your dog a mineralocorticoid medication for the rest of the dog’s life.

In some cases, the doses will need to be higher to be effective.

Another treatment for severe cases of Addison’s is an injection of Percoten-V every 25 days which has been found to be fewer side effects and can also be cost effective.  In some cases prednisone, a glucocorticoid, will be added to your dog’s prescribed medicine.

Any stress or change in your dog’s environment might affect the severity of your dog’s Addison disease.  Try to keep your dog calm as well as watch for any signs that your dog’s condition has changed in any way.

The goal of the long term treatment is that the drug therapy acts to replace the hormones that were damaged by Addison’s disease and then normal functioning takes place.

Cost of treating Addison’s disease

The cost of treating Addison’s disease depends on the degree in which your dog was affected.

The initial diagnosis and treatment is typically $600 to $1,500 which includes all the testing.

Dogs that need serious care during the diagnosis, which is common in Addison’s disease since it tends to be detected when it’s most severe, can be a minimum of $2,000.

The treatment can cost from $60 to $200 a month depending on the drugs that are needed.  In addition, the on-going lab and vet visits will add extra on-going costs.

The cost can add up since dog’s that have Addison’s will need to be treated for the rest of his life.  And this is an example of when pet insurance can be a huge benefit.

Pet insurance will help reduce the costs of the treatment, lab works, and various vet visits.

Pet insurance is especially important if you have a dog that is prone to Addison’s disease or any other condition.  While you might be paying monthly payments up front for a healthy dog, when or if your dog does get sick, it can be a real financial relief to any pet owner.

Prevention

There really is no way to prevent Addison’s disease.  If you have a dog that is prone to the disease, genetic testing could help to catch it in the early stages, but it is never a guarantee.

If the disease is caught early enough and the treatment is on-going, your dog can still enjoy a long, happy life and fully recover from Addison’s disease.

2 Comments
  1. Reply
    Erin 10/29/2016 at 2:58 pm

    I’ve been really lucky to not have any dogs that went through addison’s disease, but I remember my uncle’s family dog going through something like this. The cost of medical care was ridiculous from what I remember. I’m not sure how long my uncle continued treatment for the dog, but I think eventually he had to give up. 🙁 It was a sad thing, but his family was going through some rough times.

    • Reply
      Jon Lind 10/30/2016 at 11:13 pm

      Treating Addison’s disease can be very pricey. It is heart breaking to have to let a pet go because you can’t afford the treatments. If you have pet insurance, it is a lifesaver and dogs can live a normal lifespan with treatment.

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