Addison’s Disease In Dogs
June 23, 2023 | 3 min read
Updated June 23, 2023
Published: June 25, 2023
Summary: In this blog, we’ll learn all about Addison’s disease in dogs, including signs, treatment, and medication costs...
What Is Addison’s Disease in Dogs?
Addison’s disease (also known as hypoadrenocorticism) is a condition caused by the adrenal glands (which are located by the kidneys) failing to produce the essential steroid hormones aldosterone and cortisol. These hormones keep the body running – they are utilized by nearly every cell in the body – so, if untreated, Addison’s disease can become a serious problem and even prove fatal.
Does Addison’s Disease in Dogs Come on Suddenly?
Yes and no. Addison’s usually progresses slowly and initial symptoms can be quite subtle and vague. These can include:
- Weight loss
- Lack of interest in food
- Occasional loose stools
- Occasional vomiting
- Increased thirst
- Increased urine production
- Muscle weakness
- Intermittent shaking
- Not seeming themselves
However, in some cases, Addison’s can come on suddenly. If this happens, it can be life-threatening as it can cause “Addisonian crisis”. Symptoms of this Addisonian crisis include:
- Severe vomiting
- Loose stools
- A slowed heart rate
If these symptoms are ignored, Addisonian crisis can result in the death of a dog.
If you spot any signs of the above in your dog, contact your vet.
Addison’s is usually caused when the body’s immune system mistakenly begins attacking the adrenal glands because it's processed them as a threat. This means Addison’s is classed as an “auto-immune” disease. It is the opposite of Cushing’s disease.
Addison’s disease in dogs can also sometimes be caused by tumors or growths on the pituitary gland located in the brain.
Addison’s is considered generally uncommon in dogs, but a dog is more likely to develop it if they’re female and between the ages of 4 and 6. The condition can affect any breed of dog, but is more commonly seen in the pedigree breeds Portuguese Water Dogs, Labrador Retrievers, Leonbergers, West Highland White Terriers, Standard Poodles, St Bernards, Rottweilers, Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers, Bearded Collies, Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers, and Great Danes.
If Addison’s is diagnosed and treated appropriately, then a dog can live a relatively normal life with the support of medication.
If a dog is diagnosed by a veterinarian with Addison’s, the vet will either prescribe life-long medication that is either administered orally every day or by injection monthly. Your vet will discuss with you what they think will suit your dog best. Once under medical control, a dog’s life can pretty much return to normal after about 2-4 weeks.
If your dog does have Addison’s disease, it is advisable to keep their stress levels as low as possible as stress can cause imbalances in the body’s hormones.
An Addison’s diagnosis can cost anywhere up to $1500 to obtain – this is due to the tests required to be sure Addison’s is what’s causing your dog’s symptoms.
The monthly cost of Addison’s disease medication can be anywhere between $50 and $200 a month. Your vet may also request regular urine tests or blood work to monitor them and their medication levels over the rest of their life too.
Taking pet insurance out from the moment you own your dog is always advised because of non-preventable conditions like Addison’s. Talk to your vet about all your options if you’re concerned about costs.
A dog with Addison’s disease can expect to live a normal life if properly medicated for the condition. However, this can sometimes be more complicated if the dog also has diabetes, but a vet will talk you through this if that’s the case.
“Addison’s disease in dogs” PDSA, Jan 2021 https://www.pdsa.org.uk/pet-help-and-advice/pet-health-hub/conditions/addison-s-disease-in-dogs
Author Williams, Krista BSc, DVM, CCRP and Ward, Ernest DVM and Downing, Robin DVM, CVPP, CCRP, DAAPM “Addison’s Disease in Dogs” VCA Hospitals https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/addisons-disease-in-dogs-overview
Author Walther, Richard “Addison’s Disease in Dogs” Pawlicy https://www.pawlicy.com/blog/addisons-disease-in-dogs/