Addison’s Disease In Dogs

Jan 12, 2022 | Pet Health, Pets

Happy Wednesday everyone!  A friend of mine recently had a scare with her dog when the vet told her he might have Addison’s disease.  Fortunately, after the tests came back, it showed no signs of being Addison’s.  I had never heard of this before so off I went to do some research!  Here is what I found out and wanted to share it with you.
If you have had health problems or scares with your pet and would like to share that information to educate others, please let me know and comment below.  I would be glad to research the topic and create a post.

Jake And Maggie enjoy a day walking in the leaves!

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What is Addison’s disease?

*Addison’s disease is the common name for hypoadrenocorticism, caused by decreased hormone production from the outer part or cortex of the adrenal gland.
*Addison’s disease or hypoadrenocorticism is an uncommon disease of dogs in which the adrenal glands’ outer layer (the cortex) is destroyed.
*In most cases, it’s the body’s own immune system that leads to the destruction of this sensitive endocrine tissue, which leads directly to a decrease in the production of two classes of hormones: glucocorticoids and mineralocorticoids.
*Cancers and certain drugs can also affect a breakdown in the adrenal glands’ cortex.
*In all cases, both adrenal glands are affected.
*Young, female dogs of certain breeds are predisposed, therefore suggesting a genetic origin. A mode of inheritance has not yet been established.

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What are the adrenal glands and what do they do?

*The adrenal glands are small, paired glands located near the kidneys.
*Each gland consists of an outer cortex and an inner medulla.
*The glands produce two important hormones that regulate a variety of body functions and are necessary to sustain life.
*The two hormones are cortisol, a stress hormone, and aldosterone, a hormone that regulates the body’s levels of the minerals sodium and potassium.
*Sodium and potassium levels are important for maintaining the body’s fluid balance.
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What causes Addison’s disease?

*Addison’s disease in dogs is primarily caused by an immune–mediated destruction of adrenal tissue. *Less commonly, the adrenal glands may be damaged by trauma, infection, or cancer.
*Addison’s disease can also occur following treatment of Cushing’s disease (hyperadrenocorticism), in which too much cortisol and aldosterone are produced. If the medication used to treat Cushing’s disease inadvertently suppresses too much adrenal gland activity or damages the gland, deficiency of cortisol and aldosterone may result.
*A secondary form of Addison’s disease can result from a tumor or defect in the pituitary gland, which is an important hormonal regulator located in the brain.
*Secondary Addison’s disease can also develop if a dog has been treated with long- term steroids for any reason and the medication is abruptly stopped.
*This last condition is known as iatrogenic hypoadrenocorticism and is generally temporary.
*Certain breeds seem to be at increased risk for developing Addison’s disease. These include, but are not limited to: Portuguese Water Dogs, Bearded Collies, Standard Poodles, Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers, Leonbergers, Great Danes, and Labrador Retrievers.
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Symptoms and Identification

*Because both these hormone classes are instrumental in a wide variety of the body’s basic functions, symptoms are typically non-specific. 
*Increased thirst and urination, vomiting, diarrhea, depression, weakness, loss of appetite, shaking or shivering, and even collapse can result. 
*Signs will often appear or worsen during periods of stress. Symptoms can be constant or episodic, mild or severe and all or none of the above symptoms may be in evidence.
*Vague as the signs of Addison’s typically are, diagnosis can be difficult to achieve. 
*While screening tests (bloodwork) can sometimes help identify Addison’s in advance of obvious or severe symptoms, few cases are identified routinely.
*In Addisonian patients, lab work typically reveals low sodium levels, high potassium levels, low chloride levels, anemia, dehydration and high calcium levels.
*A blood test designed to challenge the adrenal gland into producing cortisol is used to achieve a definitive diagnosis (ACTH stimulation test). An EKG may also reveal changes associated with high potassium levels.
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How is Addison’s Disease in dogs treated?

*If your dog has suffered from an Addisonian crisis hospitalization and intensive care will be necessary to stabilize your pup’s condition.
*Once your dog is out of immediate danger your vet will prescribe one or more replacement hormone medications to help get your dog’s hormones back to normal levels. 

*There is no cure for Addison’s Disease in dogs, however, the condition can be managed with ongoing hormone replacement therapy and regular blood tests to check hormone and electrolyte levels so that adjustments to medications can be made as necessary.
*Finding just the right hormone replacement medications and strengths will take some time and a bit of trial and error so it’s important to be patient.

*It is essential for owners of dogs with Addison’s disease to take their dog in for regular examinations and never adjust the medications without explicit instructions from the veterinarian. 

What is the life expectancy for dogs with Addison’s Disease?

*With proper treatment and disease management dogs with Addison’s Disease can have a relatively normal life expectancy.

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