Addison’s disease in dogs

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. 

The team at Goodbye Good Boy offers individualised support to help you and your family navigate this difficult time by providing quality-of-life checks, in-home euthanasia, cremation and aftercare services, and personalised memorialisation options. Our services can even be pre-paid to help ease the financial burden at the time of your pet’s passing. 

To learn more about our pet end-of-life services, give us a call on 1800 953 619 or visit our website

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