Dog Training

Addison's disease in dogs (cause, diagnosis, treatment)

Addison's disease is a rare but serious condition called adrenal insufficiency or hypoadrenocorticism, as it is known in medical jargon.  For this article we have taken advice from the Veterinarian Emin Jasarevic to provide the best possible content for you, the reader. 

Table of contents

What is Addison's disease?

The name Addison's disease refers to the discoverer Thomas Addison. The English chief physician described the underactivity of the adrenal glands and the resulting consequences for the human body as early as 1855.

If the veterinarian diagnoses Addison's disease in a dog, the dog suffers from pathological damage or loss of function of the adrenal glands or the adrenal cortex. The adrenal tissue is permanently destroyed. 

The adrenal glands are located in front of the anterior kidney poles in quadrupeds. Their function is to produce gluco-corticoids and mineral corticoids. 

These are hormones that are responsible for vital functions in the body. Among other things, they influence energy balance, stress balance, the stock of sodium and potassium, water balance and heart function.

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Different forms of the disease

Medical science distinguishes three forms of Addison's disease:

The primary form: Indicates especially low level of hormones glucocorticoids and mineral corticoids. The deficiency of glucocorticoids decreases the coping with stress.

The loss of mineral corticoids alters the sodium-potassium balance. This has a bad influence on the salt and water balance in the body and can be life-threatening for your protégé.

The secondary form: In this form, hypofunction of the pituitary gland (hypopituitarism) does not stimulate the adrenal glands sufficiently, so that the adrenal glands produce too few glucocorticoids and mineralocorticoids. Thus, in the secondary form, the problem is in the brain, to be precise, in the area of the pituitary gland.  

The iatrogenic form: Occurs due to the abrupt discontinuation of prolonged treatment with cortisone. 

How does Adison's disease develop?

Addison's disease can affect any furry dog, but large breeds from young to middle-aged are particularly susceptible. These are for example Border Collies, Great Danes, West Highland and White Terriers. 

Adrenal tissue can be attacked and destroyed for a variety of reasons. Among the most common are a Malfunction of the immune system. In this case, the medical experts speak of a Autoimmune disease

This is a disease in which the immune system turns against its own body. Usually, causes include a genetic predisposition, serious diseases such as ulcers, diabetes, and infections. Likewise, high-dose cortisone medications can trigger Addison's disease if given for a long time.

How does the disease manifest itself?

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Addison's disease develops insidiously, and it can take several weeks to months for the condition to really show itself. Symptoms occur repeatedly and can increase in impact on the body.

Early signs are:

  • Fatigue and listlessness
  • Muscle tremor and uncertainty
  • Abdominal pain, Diarrhea and vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Increased water demand
  • Blood in the excretions
 The increase in symptoms are: 
  • Weak blood pressure
  • Hypoglycemia
  • Weakness attack
  • Shock
  • Colic
  • Weak pulse and heart problems

If one or more of these symptoms occur, you should be vigilant and observe your protégé. At the latest when the symptoms increase and possibly intensify, a visit to the doctor is indicated.

If your pet suffers from Addison's disease, comprehensive medical care is imperative. If treatment is not given or comes too late, various physical as well as psychological damages can occur in the organism.

The condition becomes increasingly difficult to treat, in the worst case it leads to a life-threatening stage and ultimately to the death of the dog.

The diagnosis

Identifying Addison's disease based on symptoms is not easy.

That is why an experienced veterinarian applies the so-called Adrenocorticotropic hormone stimulation test and thereby determines the value of cortisol. Cortisol is a stress hormone that is important for certain metabolic processes in the body.

For the test, the doctor takes some blood from the dog. He then administers a synthetically produced adrenocorticotropic hormone. This agent causes the cortisol level to rise in healthy adrenal glands. After a break, the doctor draws blood again and compares the two draws. 

If the value of cortisol has remained low and the diseased adrenal gland no longer produces any new cortisol, this proves that the quadruped is suffering from a primary form of Addison's disease.

The treatment of Addison's disease

A good veterinarian will adjust the dosage of medication according to the stage of the disease and the condition of your pet. He will examine him in detail and also ask you about your observations.

Addison's disease is not completely curable, but a competent physician will do everything possible to prevent progression of the condition. 

The first action according to the medical textbook is to rebalance the sodium-potassium balance or the shift in the sodium-potassium balance. 

For this purpose, the dog is given a drug with active ingredients that are designed to favorably influence the potassium level. The normal value measures between 28 and 40. If the values are below 27, an Addison's disease is likely. If the value falls below 25, there is a crisis. 

The drug for treatment is called AstoninH and contains the active ingredient Fludrocortisone. The doctor adjusts the dose to the value of potassium. He gives the dog a daily dose of 0.01-0.02 mg per kilogram of body weight. 

In this process, the fludrocortisone as a mineral corticoid influences the value of potassium. Besides, the active substance changes the value of gluco-corticoids, which is why another drug is not necessary for this. 

If the potassium value is okay and only the sodium value is too low, this can be harmful for your protégé. Therefore, the vet advises to give common salt. Depending on the indication you give at least 0.1g per kilogram in the daily feed. It is important that the amount of salt is always the same.

Preventing Adison's disease

The best medicine remains the prevention of disease. It is advisable to always keep a close eye on your pet to detect changes in his behavior in time. In this way you can react quickly and avoid a real crisis.

Does your protégé need due to a health problem Cortisonea competent veterinarian always considers the risk of subsequent development of Addison's disease. It must always be weighed up whether the administration of the drug is necessary or whether there are alternatives.

Above all, treatment with cortisone should not be ended abruptly if possible, but should be phased out slowly. Make sure that the doctor regularly checks the blood values and thus ensures the best precaution for his patient. 

If your cat is genetically predisposed to Addison's disease, you should pay special attention to changes in his behavior. In addition, regular screening can detect and treat the onset of the disease in time.

Recommendation from the vet

Even though Addison's disease is relatively rare, stress and infections can lead to one. Unfortunately, a total cure is not possible. However, it can be relatively well regulated with medication, so that your pelt-nose can live a good and long life.

This means that it is always best for you and your faithful friend to immediately involve your veterinarian if you observe any signs of a behavioral disorder.

Examined by the veterinarian Emin Jasarevic
Examined by the veterinarian Emin Jasarevic

I am a veterinarian and writer on animal health topics. Animals are my passion and it is my personal concern to create medically accurate articles and videos to inform pet owners as much as possible.

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