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Canine Addison's Disease: 5 Things to Know

By Gina Carey. July 03, 2012 | See Comments

Canine Addison's Disease: 5 Things to Know

Addison’s disease diminishes the cortisol levels in dogs, and it can spell serious consequences for your dog's health. These 5 facts will help you understand the disease.

Addison’s disease is an illness that depletes the cortisol level in dogs. While Addison’s disease is relatively rare in humans (President Kennedy is one of the most famous known cases), this illness occurs more frequently in animals, especially female dogs. Here are five key facts you should know about Addisonian dogs.

1. Addison’s diseasecauses a severe deficiency of the hormone cortisol

The adrenal glands produce hormones that are essential to hundreds of actions within the body. Cortisol is one of these hormones. Most people associated cortisol with stress and the “fight or flight” reaction, but this hormone also performs functions throughout the body, including helping maintain blood pressure and stimulating appetite. Addison’s disease occurs when the production of cortisol by the adrenal glands is prohibited, depriving your pet of this essential hormone.

2. Symptoms of Addison’s disease are frequently misdiagnosed

Signs of  Addison’s disease include loss of appetite, increased thirst, weakness, gastrointestinal issues such as diarrhea and vomiting, and lethargy. Unfortunately, these symptoms are also common signs of other ailments, which earns this disease the nickname “the great imitator.” Vets may mistake these symptoms for illnesses such as kidney failure, liver disease, and gastrointestinal diseases.

3. Addisonian Crisis may be the first sign of illness

Dogs may not show consistent or regular symptoms of Addison’s disease until they undergo Addisonian Crisis. This is a medical emergency in which your dog may collapse or go into shock. Symptoms of Addison’s disease are more pronounced and severe during Addisonian Crisis, and include weakness, shakiness, and vomiting. Pets in Addisonian Crisis must be treated immediately.

4. Ongoing treatment is key

Once your pet has been diagnosed with Addison’s disease, consistent treatment is necessary to maintain your dog’s health. While there is no cure for Addison’s disease, your pet can live a normal life with the proper medication. Once your vet prescribes medicine to balance adrenal deficiencies, your pet will have to check in periodically in case hormonal levels change. Addison’s disease is fatal when left untreated.

5. Dog’s need increased treatment in times of stress

Cortisol is responsible for regulating stress. Your dog will need an increased dosage of medicine when stress occurs since your pet’s adrenal glands will not be able to produce the supplemental cortisol needed. Stressors will vary from dog to dog, but they include injuries, illnesses, loud noises, changes to routine, visits to the vet, and a move to a new home.

This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian. Always seek the advice of your veterinarian or other qualified professional with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard or delay seeking professional advice due to what you may have read on our website.

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