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

Addison’s disease in dogs is also known as Addison’s disease or hypercorticism. It is a disease of the adrenal glands that leads to a lack of certain hormones. The disease can be acute or chronic but always requires veterinary treatment.

The adrenal glands 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 adverse effects on his metabolism and other bodily functions. You will learn more about Addison’s disease, its consequences, and its therapy in the following.

What is Addison’s disease in dogs?

Dogs suffering from Addison’s disease suffer from a hormone deficiency. This is a hypofunction of the adrenal glands, which is a healthy state that produces so-called mineralocorticoids 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 corticosteroids – a hypercorticism – leads to poor circulation, dehydration, and pathological weight loss. By the way: There is also an overproduction of corticosteroids – it occurs, for example, in Cushing’s syndrome.

Acute and chronic Addison’s disease in dogs: causes

In Addison’s disease, a distinction is made between the acute and chronic forms on the one hand and the primary and secondary variants on the other. “Acute” means that adrenal fatigue comes on suddenly. “Chronic” means that the hormone deficiency develops gradually and only becomes noticeable over time. The causes of Addison’s disease depend on whether it is the primary or secondary variant.

Primary Addison’s disease is an autoimmune disease. The immune system fights off pathogens and destroys healthy body cells – in the case of Addison’s disease, the cells of the adrenal glands are responsible for hormone production.

Secondary Addison’s disease is a consequence or
Symptoms of another underlying disease include diabetes mellitus, injuries, inflammation, or tumors. Then there is the so-called Addison crisis. If affected dogs suffer extreme stress or an infection in addition to Addison’s disease, the hormone levels drop so quickly that shock or circulatory collapse can occur. The Addison crisis is a life-threatening emergency!

Addison’s disease: Symptoms of adrenal fatigue in dogs
Hypocorticism is noticeable in dogs through physical weakness. It manifests itself, for example, through the following symptoms:

● fatigue
● apathy
● tremors
● abdominal pain
● loss of appetite
● Increased thirst
● weight loss
● diarrhea
● vomiting

There may also be blood in the dog’s stool. If Addison’s disease is left untreated, it can lead to heart failure and lung damage. The symptoms worsen in stressful situations or the case of infections. Danger! In this case, a life-threatening Addison crisis threatens.

Diagnosis of Addison’s disease in dogs: blood test provides certainty
Unfortunately, the symptoms alone are not enough to diagnose Addison’s disease with certainty. They are merely indicators that something is wrong with your dog. However, another condition can also trigger physical weakness. Therefore, a visit to the veterinarian is necessary as soon as possible to determine the causes of the poor state of your four-legged friend.

The diagnosis of Addison’s disease can be confirmed with a blood test. The lack of aldosterone causes increased potassium levels and decreased sodium levels in the blood. A blood test can verify this. A so-called ACTH test, which measures the hormone concentration in the blood, finally confirms whether it is Addison’s disease.

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

Hormone replacement therapy for dogs with Addison’s disease
Addison’s disease in dogs can only be treated with hormone replacement therapy. This applies to all forms of adrenal fatigue. The veterinarian will prescribe hormone supplements for your dog, compensating for hypercorticism and bringing body functions back to normal.

If it is the primary variant of Addison’s disease, your dog will need hormone replacement therapy. While there is no cure for the primary form, your dog can still lead an everyday life with the proper treatment. The secondary variant of Addison’s disease can sometimes be cured if the underlying condition is curable.

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