What is Addison's Disease in Dogs? Signs and Treatment
What is Addison's Disease?
Addison's disease is the common name for adrenal insufficiency, which is a disease that has similar symptoms as other health issues, making a diagnosis a little complicated. But, once diagnosed, your dog can live a semi-normal life.
Each kidney has an adrenal gland, which is made up of the cortex and medulla. The cortex is the outer later that secretes corticosteroid hormones, and the medulla is the inner portion that secretes adrenaline. Generally, the cortex is the portion of the adrenal gland that is affected by Addison's.
When the cortex of the adrenal gland cannot properly secrete and regulate cortisol and aldosterone, which is necessary to regulate sodium in the blood. Without these hormones, the sodium levels will decrease and cause an increase in potassium and lower the dog's blood pressure. High potassium levels can stop the heart from beating fast, which is a normal reaction to lowered blood pressure, so the lowered heart rate and lowered blood pressure, your dog can go into shock, which can be fatal.
Types of Addison's Disease
There are three different types of Addison's Disease:
- Primary: Usually caused by an immune medicated damage to the the adrenal glands. Primary Addison's Disease is caused when the glands do not produce the mineralocorticoids and glucocorticoids. This type of Addison's requires replacement therapy of mineralocorticoids.
- Secondary: Usually caused by the failure of the pituitary gland to stimulate the adrenal glands with the adrenocorticotropic hormone, so when the pituitary gland doesn't secrete ACTH, the adrenal glands don't get the signal (so to speak) to secrete hormones. This type of Addison's requires replacement therapy of glucocorticoids.
- Atypical: Usually caused by an immune medicated damage to the the adrenal glands, and without treatment, it can develop into primary Addison's Disease. This type of Addison's requires replacement therapy of glucocorticoids.
Dogs Prone to Addison's Disease
Although, any dog can develop Canine Addison's Disease, dogs who are younger to middle aged are more prone to developing the disease, as well as female dogs. Typically, Labs, Standard Poodles, and Portuguese Water Dogs, are more prone to the disease.
Dogs who have other disease and conditions that may affect the adrenal glands, to include infections, and tumors, are more prone to developing the disease. There are some toxic drugs and certain steroids that are used to treat other illnesses can actually cause the adrenal glands to stop functioning properly.
Dogs who have suffered a direct injury to the kidneys, infection, hemorrhage, or other autoimmune illnesses can also potentially develop Addison's Disease. Dog's who are being treated Cushing's Disease or have been on steroids for a long-term basis, are also prone to Addison's.
Symptoms of Addison's Disease
The actual symptoms of Canine Addison's Disease is pretty vague, as they are similar to other health problems. The main sign of Addison's in your dog is generally going to be weakness and lethargy. Other common symptoms of Canine Addison's Disease can include vomiting, diarrhea, reduced appetite, tremors, shaking, muscle weakness, pain in hind area, and depression. Collapsing is another serious sign of Addison's Disease that requires an immediate trip to the vet.
Symptoms usually start small and start to linger for months or even years before they become a noticeable concern. Many dogs are actually diagnosed with renal failure because the BUN and creatinine levels may appear elevated.
Diagnosing Canine Addison's Disease
Your vet will perform a heart EKG to test whether the heart has slowed. Blood tests are also common to determine abnormally low sodium and high potassium levels. Your vet may also check your dog's electrolyte levels, although this isn't a definite test for the disease.Your vet may also perform an ACTH to determine whether or not the adrenal glands are performing properly, testing the cortisol levels in the blood.
Treating Addison's Disease
There are actually different types of medications that your vet may prescribe to keep your dog's Addison's in control. The medications are used as a replacement therapy to replace the missing hormones in your dogs body. Generally, your dog will receive an injection once every 28 days.
Most vets will also prescrive Prednisone or Hydrocortisone shots in combination to the hormone replacement, which will help replace the cortisol in the body that the adrenal glands aren't producing properly.
Depending on what type of Addison's Disease your dog has, will determine what medications he will need. Generally, if your dog has primary Addison's, your vet will prescribe medications that act as a mineralocorticoid to replace the aldosterone, which is the hormone responsible to maintain electrolytes. Generally, vets will prescribe the oral medication- Florinef- or the injectible medication- Percorten.
Manage Addison's Disease With Diet Changes
In addition to the medications that your vet may prescribe, it's a good idea that you consider your dog's diet. You want to make sure that your dog is getting the vitamins and nutrients that he needs- generally that's going to mean stop feeding grocery store brand dog foods. Avoid dog foods that state "Meat by-product" in the ingredients label.to
If you need help choosing a good dog food, you'll want to make sure that you understand how to read dog food labels. Choosing Dog Food by Reading the Dog Food Label
You may also want to include various herbs into your dogs diet.
- Licorice: Interacts and prolongs the effectiveness of corticosterods. It can increase the production of glucose and mineralocorticoids
- Milk Thistle: An antioxidant that supports the immune system
- Ginger: Strengthen steroid production
- Valerian: Generally helps the heart and maintain blood pressure
- Taraxacum officinale (Dandelion): Helps the liver, kidneys and adrenal glands, by promotin adrenal gland functions
- Astragalus membranaceous (Huang Qi): Restore balance to the adrenal glands.
Disclaimer: Please be aware that the advice in this article should in no way replace that of a licensed veterinarian. The methods outlined above may or may not work for your pet. If you have any concerns, you should consult a veterinarian.