Addison’s disease in dogs

Julia Dicconson
Content Manager
September 29, 2021

Addison’s disease is a decreased production of adrenal hormones (corticosteroids), which regulate metabolism, immune function, blood pressure, and stress response. 

The adrenal glands can lose their hormone-secreting function due to the genetic disposition of certain breeds, and immune-mediated disease. Other less common causes include medications, inflammation, infection, or cancer. 

Addison’s disease primarily affects young to middle-aged dogs and has been called “the great imitator,” because symptoms can be vague until a dog is quite ill.

What are common Addison’s disease signs in dogs?

Early signs include:

  • Intermittent decreased energy or appetite
  • Intermittent diarrhoea or vomiting

Intermediate to advanced signs include: 

  • Increased thirst and urination
  • Weight loss
  • Tremors
  • Excessive diarrhoea and vomiting
  • Lethargy and weakness
  • Collapse

Dog with decreased energy suffering from Addison's disease.

How is Addison’s disease managed in dogs?  

Almost one-third of dogs with Addison’s disease are diagnosed at an advanced stage, known as an “Addisonian crisis,” and need immediate hospitalisation. 

Once a dog is stabilised, a personalised treatment plan of monthly injections and/or oral medication is designed to supplement adrenal hormones. Relapses are possible during times of stress, requiring emergency hormone supplementation. 

Management of Addison’s disease is lifelong and involves regular veterinary visits with diagnostic testing, focused owner observation, dedication, and expense.

What is the prognosis for dogs with Addison’s disease?

The prognosis for dogs with Addison’s disease is excellent if the acute crisis is successfully treated and the dog responds well to long-term management. Most Addisonian dogs can have a good quality of life and a normal lifespan. 

Management tips for dogs with Addison’s disease 

At-home needs include:

  • Strictly consistent monthly treatments and/or oral medications
  • Monitoring appetite, drinking, urination, weight and energy level
  • Limiting stress
  • Keeping emergency medication on hand in case of relapse

For end-of-life care:

In a crisis:

Immediately contact your vet if your dog shows signs of lethargy, diarrhoea, vomiting, tremors, or collapse; or is unresponsive.

It is vital to begin end-of-life care discussions before your dog‘s condition becomes unmanageable, or they begin losing their quality of life. 

Don’t wait until the very end. It’s important to consider your pet’s end-of-life journey early, so that you, your family and your pet are all supported through the process.

When the time comes, we’re here for you. Goodbye Good Boy provides a range of end-of-life services to make the difficult process of saying goodbye a little easier. 

We offer quality of life assessments from qualified vets, specialist grief counselling, at home euthanasia from dedicated end of life veterinarians, as well as cremation services and memorial options to help remember your pet for their unique character.

We are with you at every step of the journey.

To find out more, you can call our team of passionate pet lovers on 1800 953 619.

This article was reproduced with permission from Goodbye Good Boy advisor Dr Dani McVety, of Lap Of Love.