Like Addison’s disease (or Hypoadrenocorticism) in humans, Addison’s disease in dogs is a disease that affects the adrenal glands located on top of your dog’s kidneys.
Adrenal Gland Structure
Each adrenal gland is comprised of two structures, the otter portion which is called the adrenal cortex and the inner portion which is referred to as the adrenal medulla. It is the outer portion or adrenal cortex that becomes affected and ultimately destroyed in pets suffering from Addison’s disease.
Causes of Addison’s Disease in dogs
In most cases, Addison’s disease in pets will be caused by an animal’s own autoimmune system, which for unknown reasons, begins to attack the adrenal gland. The attack on the adrenal gland ultimately leads to its destruction.
That said, however, in some cases, Addison’s disease or hypoadrenocorticism can also be caused do to exposure to certain infections, medications and or certain cancers.
The good news…
Is that Addison’s disease in dogs is a relatively rare condition and if diagnosed early (avoiding an Addisonian crisis) and treated properly, your dog should be able to live a long and normal life.
Symptoms of Addison’s Disease in Dogs
Because Addison’s disease is responsible for the breakdown of tissues that are directly responsible for the production of two important groups of hormones (glucocorticoids and mineralocorticoids), what you’re generally going to find is that dogs suffering from Addison’s disease are going to suffer from symptoms affected by the decrease of these hormones.
Symptoms such as:
- Loss of energy
- Sudden lack of appetite
- Vomiting and/or diahhrea
- Weight loss
- Polyuria (increase in urination frequency)
- Poydipsia (Always thirsty)
- Potential hair loss
- Decrease in blood pressure
- Blood in feces.
Recognizing these symptoms early is always a good first step in diagnosing Addison’s disease in dogs, ultimately your veterinarian is going to want to perform a blood test called an ACTH stimulation test which will measure how well your dog’s adrenal gland is working after it is stimulated by an ACTH injection.
In normal dogs, this ACTH stimulation test will trigger an increase in the amount of cortisol levels found in the blood stream, while dogs with a damaged or destroyed adrenal cortex will only experience small increases in cortisol if any at all (it should be noted that cortisol is a steroid hormone in the glucocorticoid class of hormones which as we stated earlier is one of the hormones affected by Addison’s disease).
May also order an EKG (electrocardiogram) test as well so that they can determine if your dog is also suffering from any potential potassium level increases as well.
Now at this point…
We generally like to remind folks that we here at IndulgeYourPet are not medical experts, and we’re certainly not VETERINARIANS!
All we are is a bunch of folks who care very deeply about animals. So… if you feel that your dog may be suffering from Addison’s disease, have him or her checked out by a professional!
Writing this article so that folks can get a general idea of what Addison’s disease is so that if they have any suspicions, they can take the next step and get their dog checked out.
Treatment Options for dogs with Addison’s disease
Now since we’ve already covered the fact that we’re not Vet’s we’ll keep this section of the article a bit brief because at the end of the day, your dog’s treatment can and should be determined by a profession.
That said however…
What you’re likely going to encounter is that because most dogs aren’t diagnosed with Addison’s disease until they actually become seriously ill and are suffering from what is called an acute adrenocortical insufficiency or “Addison Crisis”.
So, the first wave of treatment is typically going to center around trying to rehydrate your pet and correct any electrolyte imbalances (think sodium and potassium imbalances) he or she maybe suffering as a result of their condition.
Your veterinarian is likely to prescribe a long term treatment plan which is likely to include a drug therapy plan to compensate for the hormones lost as a result of the damage done to your pets adrenal glands.
It is here that…
We should note that cost for treating an adrenal insufficiency condition such as Addison’s disease can very significantly due to the wide range of symptoms that our dog may be first exhibiting at the time of diagnosis.
Additionally, the cost of the medications used to maintain your dogs normal hormonal balance may also vary depending on the severity of your dog’s condition.
This is why….
We here at IndulgeYourPet always advise anyone who is thinking about adoption or rescuing a dog from a rescue center to also look at what the cost of a Pet Insurance Policy might be so that if they do find themselves in a situation like this once where care will need to be administered for the life of their animal, they’ll have the financial assistance of a qualify pet insurance plan to help alleviate much of the financial burden.
This is particularly the case…
If your considering adopting a dog with an increase propensity for developing Addison’s disease such as:
- Bearded Collies
- Great Danes
- Labrador Retriever
- Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers
- Portuguese Water Spaniel
- Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers
- Standard Poodles
- West Highland White Terriers