Ill Without A Diagnosis? This Canine Disease Is Often Recognized Late

You are absolutely sure your dog is sick. But visits to the veterinarian still haven’t led to a diagnosis? Then there could be Addison’s disease behind it. Symptoms are similar to those of other diseases, which is why a dog’s illness is often recognized late.

Addison’s disease (hypocortisolism) is a disease of the adrenal glands. The adrenal glands in the adrenal cortex produce certain hormones that are important for metabolism. However, with Addison, the glands produce fewer hormones than the body needs.

Females from four to seven years old, belonging to large breeds, are especially affected. However, in theory, the disease can occur in males and dogs of all breeds. Addison can be both acute and insidious – i.e. chronically.

Different Types of Addison’s Disease in Dogs

Addison’s disease is often caused by a disorder of the immune system – for example, due to an autoimmune disease. Then they talk about primary adrenal insufficiency or weakness.

Since the adrenal tissue is destroyed, it can no longer produce enough hormones. This leads to an imbalance in the concentration of potassium, sodium, chlorine, and water in the blood.

Less commonly, Addison can develop in dogs as a result of bumps, injury, or inflammation. This form of the disease is known as secondary adrenal insufficiency.

This becomes a problem when stress and infections lead to the Addison crisis: the dog suddenly becomes lethargic, weak, dehydrated, and may pass out. An absolute emergency – you must take your dog to the vet immediately!

At its worst, a crisis can be fatal if not dealt with quickly enough.

Canine Addison’s Disease: Here are the Symptoms

In less severe forms of Addison’s disease, symptoms are often vague, making it difficult to make an accurate diagnosis, explains veterinarian Dr. Karen Becker on her Healthy Pets blog.

Signs of illness in your dog include exhaustion, depression, loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and increased thirst.

In acute Addison’s disease, the dog is apathetic, weak, has no appetite, suffers from dehydration and low blood pressure. As described above, the dog may also go into shock or become unconscious. 30 percent of dogs with Addison are not diagnosed until they get to the vet due to the Addison crisis.

How to Help Your Dog with Hypocorticism

In addition to getting treatment from your veterinarian, you can also make life with Addison’s disease as comfortable as possible for your dog. Dr. Karen Becker shares tips on how owners can help with dog illnesses:

  • Make your dog’s life as calm as possible.
  • Provide your dog with optimal nutrition containing all the nutrients it needs.
  • Don’t give your dog’s immune system more vaccinations than necessary.
  • Nervous dogs can be soothed with a relaxing massage.
  • Make sure your dog is exercising enough to get tired and sleep well in the evening.
  • Turn off your TV and make sure you have a quiet, dark sleeping environment.
Mary Allen

Written by Mary Allen

Hello, I'm Mary! I've cared for many pet species including dogs, cats, guinea pigs, fish, and bearded dragons. I also have ten pets of my own currently. I've written many topics in this space including how-tos, informational articles, care guides, breed guides, and more.

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