Addison’s Disease: Symptoms and Diagnosis

What is It?

Hypoadrenocorticism or Addison’s disease is a low hormone output from the adrenal glands.

What Causes It?

While the true cause of Addison’s disease is still unknown, there’s enough data for Vets to start coming up with the most likely candidates, with the leading idea being the result of an autoimmune process. In any event, Addison’s is the result of a damaged adrenal gland, which produces, among other things, aldosterone and cortisol.

The resultant imbalance cascades to all sorts of issues throughout your dog’s body.

The breeds with the biggest predisposition to this disease are:

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What Are The Symptoms?

The most common symptoms come under two main categories. Gastrointestinal and physical changes.

The GI issues include:

  • Refusal to eat
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Increased water intake
  • Increased urination

The physical changes include weakness

  • Trembling limbs and collapsing

Is it Life Threatening?

Yes. If left undiagnosed, Addison’s disease can be fatal. Most dogs will live normal lifespan with treatment.

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How is It Diagnosed?

Since many of the symptoms of Addison’s disease are also symptoms of other more common issues. There are several steps to achieving a diagnosis.

  • Routine bloodwork – this will signal a multitude of changes including low iron, low blood sugar, increased potassium, low albumin, increased calcium, low white blood cells.
  • Baseline cortisol measurements – this test would immediately rule out diagnosis IF levels are normal. Low levels would move to an ACTH stimulation test.
  • ACTH stimulation test – after a small amount of ACTH is administered to a dog, if cortisol is not released – the dog would receive a diagnosis.

What Are The Treatments?

There are several medications and combinations of these medicines a dog will receive. You would work with your veterinarian to decide what medication or medications work best for your pup.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pup’s condition, please make an appointment with your veterinarian. Or, consult a virtual vet here.