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 comprises two structures, the outer portion, called the adrenal cortex, and the inner portion, referred to as the adrenal medulla. The outer part or adrenal cortex 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 autoimmune system, which begins to attack the adrenal gland for unknown reasons. The attack on the adrenal gland ultimately leads to its destruction.
However, in some cases, Addison’s disease or hypoadrenocorticism can also be caused due to exposure to certain infections, medications, and certain cancers.
The good news…
That Addison’s disease in dogs is a relatively rare condition. If diagnosed early (avoiding an Addisonian crisis) and treated correctly, your dog should be able to live a long and everyday 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 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 will want to perform a blood test called an ACTH stimulation test to measure how well your dog’s adrenal gland works after an ACTH injection stimulates it.
In normal dogs, this ACTH stimulation test will trigger increased cortisol levels in the bloodstream. In contrast, dogs with a damaged or destroyed adrenal cortex will only experience slight 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).
You may also order an EKG (electrocardiogram) test so that they can determine if your dog is also suffering from any potential potassium level increases.
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!
We are all a bunch of folks who care very deeply about animals. So… if you feel your dog may suffer from Addison’s disease, have them checked out by a professional!
We’re simply writing this article so that folks can get a general idea of Addison’s disease and 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
Since we’ve already covered that we’re not vets, we’ll keep this section of the article brief because your dog’s treatment can and should be determined by profession.
That said, however…
You’ll likely encounter that because most dogs aren’t diagnosed with Addison’s disease until they become seriously ill and are suffering from an acute adrenocortical insufficiency or “Addison Crisis.”
So, the first wave of treatment will typically center around rehydrating your pet and correcting any electrolyte imbalances (think sodium and potassium imbalances) they may be suffering due to their condition.
From there, your veterinarian is likely to prescribe a long-term treatment plan which is expected to include a drug therapy plan to compensate for the hormones lost due to the damage done to your pet’s adrenal glands.
It is here that…
We should note that the cost of treating an adrenal insufficiency condition such as Addison’s disease can vary significantly due to the wide range of symptoms our dog may first exhibit at the time of diagnosis. Additionally, the cost of the medications used to maintain your dog’s average hormonal balance may 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 one 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 you’re considering adopting a dog with an increased 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.
For more information about who we “feel” currently offers the “best” pet insurance policies in the industry, we would encourage you to check out our Best Pet Insurance Companies article.