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Canine Addison's Disease

Canine Addison's Disease

Addison's disease in canines is caused due to a diminished adrenal function. It is characterized by symptoms like vomiting, weight loss, lethargy, and shaking. To get more information about the same, read the following article.
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If you own a cute dog, then you must have observed that it suffers from different illnesses in its lifetime. Some of the common dog health problems are worms, allergies, rabies, and heartworms. Addison's disease is a very uncommon condition found in dogs and humans, as well. This disease is associated with insufficient secretion of adrenal hormones through the adrenal glands. It is also referred to as hypoadrenocorticism.


It results from inadequate secretion of corticosteroid hormones by the adrenal glands. There are two types of corticosteroids, namely glucocorticoids and mineralocorticoids. Glucocorticoids play a significant role in the metabolism of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. Mineralocorticoids are needed for regulating water and electrolyte balance in the body. Decreased levels of these hormones can lead to reduced sodium and raised potassium levels in the blood, causing low blood pressure. Corticosteroid hormones help the animal to withstand stress physiologically. Deficiency of these hormones result in this condition in dogs.

There are two types of canine Addison's disease such as primary or typical and secondary or atypical. The primary type results from insufficient production of both, glucocorticoids and mineralocorticoids. Secondary form of the disease occurs when the pituitary gland secretes inadequate amounts of ACTH (adrenocorticotropic hormone), which is necessary to stimulate the adrenal glands for hormone production. This condition may also result from damage to the adrenal glands related to the immune system.


Its exact cause is not clear. However, there are several potential causes. A tumor of pituitary gland is one of the main reasons for this condition. Sometimes, this disease results from a direct injury to the adrenal glands due to infection, hemorrhage, or certain autoimmune disorders. The dog may develop this condition after prolonged treatment with steroids and sudden discontinuation of the medication. Some other possible causes are heredity, trauma, fungal infections, and cancer. This disease is more common in young to middle-aged female dogs. It can occur in any dog breed. However, certain dog breeds like Standard Poodles, Newfoundlands, Great Danes, Bearded Collies, and Portuguese Water Dogs are more prone to it.


Symptoms of canine Addison's disease may resemble other canine diseases. Early symptoms are related to gastrointestinal problems like vomiting, loss of appetite, and diarrhea. The dog also suffers from muscle weakness, lethargy, shaking, slow pulse, and collapse. Many times, symptoms go unnoticed, until Addisonian crisis occurs. During this phase, the dog exhibits the symptoms like acute collapse, irregular heartbeats, and shock. Due to low sodium and high potassium levels in the blood, the blood pressure falls, which can prove to be fatal.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Diagnosis includes different blood tests such as determination of electrolyte levels like sodium and potassium, and ACTH stimulation test. When it is confirmed, the veterinarian administers oral hormone replacement therapy. Most dogs are treated with oral drugs like fludrocortisone acetate. Another option is injectable medications like percortin. This drug is injected once in every four weeks. In the case of Addisonian crisis, IV fluids and electrolytes are also administered along with corticosteroids. Herbal remedies like licorice, ginger, garlic, dandelion, and valerian are also effective for the treatment of this disease.

By maintaining good hygiene, proper care, and with ample love, you can prevent any health problems in your loving pet and keep it healthy and playful lifelong.