Addison's disease in dogs: what you need to know

Addison's disease in dogs is also known as Addison's disease or hypocorticism. It is a disease of the adrenal glands, which leads to a lack of certain hormones. The disease can be acute or chronic, but it always belongs to veterinary treatment.

The adrenals are responsible for the production of various hormones in dogs. If a dog suffers from Addison's disease, this hormone production is disturbed. This has a negative impact on his metabolism and other bodily functions. Below you will learn more about Addison's Disease, its consequences and its therapy.

What is Addison's disease in dogs?

Dogs suffering from Addison's disease have a hormone deficiency. The reason for this is a hypofunction of the adrenal glands, which in the healthy state produce so-called mineral corticosteroids such as aldosterone and glucocorticoids such as cortisol. For example, aldosterone regulates mineral balance, water balance and blood pressure. Cortisol is essential for a functioning metabolism.

A lack of these corticoids - a hypocorticism - leads to circulatory dysfunction, dehydration and pathological weight loss. Incidentally, there is also an overproduction of corticosteroids - it occurs, for example, in Cushing's syndrome.

Acute and chronic Addison disease in dogs: causes

In Addison's disease one distinguishes on the one hand the acute and chronic form, on the other hand the primary and secondary variants. "Acute" means that the adrenal fatigue suddenly occurs. "Chronic" means that the hormone deficiency develops slowly and only becomes noticeable with time. The causes of Addison's disease depend on whether it is the primary or secondary variant.

The primary Addison disease is an autoimmune disease. The immune system not only repels pathogens, but also destroys healthy body cells - in the case of Addison's disease, the cells of the adrenal glands responsible for hormone production.

Secondary Addison's disease is a consequence or concomitant of another underlying disease, such as diabetes mellitus, injuries, inflammation or tumors. In addition, there is the so-called Addison Crisis. If affected dogs experience extreme stress or an infection in addition to Addison's disease, the hormone level drops so quickly that it can cause shock or circulatory collapse. The Addison crisis is a life-threatening emergency!

Addison's disease: symptoms of adrenal fatigue in the dog

The hypocorticism manifests itself in the dog by physical weakness. It manifests itself for example by the following symptoms:

● fatigue

● apathy

● trembling

● abdominal pain

● loss of appetite

● Increased thirst

● weight loss


● Vomiting

In addition, it can lead to blood in the dog's stool. If Addison's disease is left untreated, heart failure and lung damage are at risk. In stressful situations or in case of an infection the symptoms get worse. Attention! In this case threatens a lethal Addison crisis.

Diagnosis of Addison's disease in the dog: blood test gives security

Unfortunately, the symptoms alone are not enough to determine Addison's disease with certainty. They are just indicia that something is wrong with your dog. However, another illness can trigger the physical weakness. Therefore, the fastest possible vet visit is necessary to determine the causes of the poor condition of your four-legged friend.

The diagnosis of Addison's disease can be confirmed with a blood test. The lack of aldosterone causes an increased potassium and a low sodium level in the blood. This can be proven by a blood test. A so-called ACTH test, which measures the hormone concentration in the blood, finally provides certainty as to whether it is Addison's disease.

With an ultrasound or X-ray examination, the veterinarian can also check how far the Addison disease has progressed and whether it has already caused damage to the heart and lungs.

Hormone replacement therapy for dogs with Addison's disease

The Addison's disease in dogs can only be treated by hormone replacement therapy. This is true for all forms of adrenal fatigue. The vet prescribes your dog hormone preparations that compensate for hypocorticism and normalize the body functions.

If it is the primary variant of Addison's disease, your dog will need life-long hormone replacement therapy. The primary form is not curable, but with the right treatment, your dog can still lead a normal life. The secondary variant of Addison's disease may be cured if the underlying condition is treatable.

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