Addison's disease in dogs
Addison's disease is a potentially life-threatening disease that can also affect dogs. If the disease is recognised and treated in good time, however, a largely normal life is normally possible for affected four-legged friends.
In the following, you will learn what causes Addison's disease in dogs and which symptoms can indicate that they are ill. In addition, we explain which treatment options are available for your four-legged friend.
Development of Addison's disease in dogs
Addison's disease is primarily characterized by the destruction or impairment of the functionality of the adrenal cortices. Their function is normally to produce vital glucocorticoids and mineralocorticoids. Mineralocorticoids are responsible for regulating the potassium and sodium balance in the body. If they are absent, this affects, among other things, the heart function and water balance of the dog. Glucocorticoids play a role in energy production and stress perception.
In dogs with Addison's disease, a deficiency of these two hormones occurs, which without treatment can be fatal for affected animals in the worst case.
Different types of Addison's disease in dogs
There are different forms of Addison's disease in dogs. There is a primary, a secondary and an iatrogenic form of Addison's disease.
Primary Addison's disease in dogs
The primary Addison's disease is particularly common in dogs. It originates in the adrenal glands and can occur in either a typical or atypical form.
If your dog suffers from typical primary Addison's disease, it is primarily associated with a deficiency in mineralocorticoids. This leads to an increase in potassium levels and a reduction in sodium levels. This condition can cause a life-threatening Addison's crisis in dogs.
In contrast, Addison's disease, an atypical primary disease, primarily lacks glucocorticoids. This does not cause an Addison crisis. However, it is possible that the atypical Addison's disease could develop into a typical primary Addison's disease over time.
Secondary Addison's disease in dogs
Unlike primary Addison's disease, secondary Addison's disease is not caused by a dysfunction of the adrenal glands, but by the pituitary gland or hypothalamus in the dog's brain.
In this case, the trigger may be a brain tumour, for example. The symptoms that occur are usually similar to those of primary Addison's disease in dogs.
Addison's disease in dogs
Addison's disease is caused in dogs by the administration or sudden withdrawal of corticosteroids.
If a dog receives appropriate preparations over a longer period of time due to a disease, its organism shuts down its own production.
It can take several months before the capacity of the adrenal glands returns to normal at the end of therapy. In order to avoid iatrogenic Addison's disease, it is therefore important to slowly reduce the administered dose.
Possible triggers for Addison's disease in dogs
The exact causes of Addison's disease in dogs have not yet been conclusively clarified. However, the evidence suggests that a variety of triggers may be responsible for the disease.
It is currently assumed that autoimmune diseases, which destroy the tissue of the adrenal glands, play an important role in this process. In addition, tumours and circulatory disturbances may also contribute to the development of Addison's disease.
In addition, some breeds of dogs appear to be at increased risk of developing Addison's disease.
The following dogs are considered to be particularly susceptible to Addison's disease:
Detect Addison's disease in dogs
Addison's disease manifests itself in dogs through a number of symptoms. The exact symptoms that occur depend on the hormones that are deficient.
The typical symptoms of Addison's disease in dogs include:
- Weakness and fatigue
- Digestive problems such as vomiting and diarrhoea
- Lack of appetite and emaciation
- Increased drinking and urination
- Shivering and muscle cramps
The Addison crisis in dogs
A primary typical Addison's disease can cause a so-called Addison crisis in dogs. This is a sudden state of shock that is fatal without immediate treatment.
Dogs with Addison's disease are a case for the veterinarian
If you suspect that your dog is suffering from Addison's disease, a visit to the vet is essential. The veterinarian can perform various blood tests, including checking potassium and sodium levels.
If there are any discrepancies, this may be a first indication of problems with the adrenal glands. To diagnose Addison's disease in your dog, the next step is for the vet to perform hormone tests.
It is also common practice to check the heart and lungs for any damage. For this purpose, the veterinarian will use imaging diagnostics such as x-rays and ultrasound scans.
Treatment and prognosis for dogs with Addison's disease
Addison's disease has no cure. Treatment of your dog must therefore be permanent. For this purpose, your four-legged friend is given synthetic hormones to compensate for the lack of production in his own body.
If your dog has suffered an Addison's disease crisis, an immediate infusion is required to normalise sodium and potassium levels.
Under normal circumstances, Addison's disease in dogs can be managed quite well in this way. However, depending on the underlying disease, the prognosis for your dog may be worse.
Prevention of Addison's disease in dogs
Unfortunately, it is hardly possible to prevent Addison's disease. As a dog owner, you have no influence on most causes, such as autoimmune diseases or genetic predisposition.
However, if your dog is being treated with corticosteroids due to a disease, you should make sure that these are gradually phased out. This gives the body the opportunity to adjust its own production and you can at least prevent the development of iatrogenic Addison's disease in your dog.
Counteracting digestive problems in dogs with Addison's disease
Digestive problems such as diarrhoea and vomiting are among the typical symptoms that Addison's disease causes in dogs. To counteract these symptoms, we recommend supplementing the diet of your four-legged friend with Shiimun Gastro.
Shiimun Gastro is our natural food supplement to promote healthy digestion. The preparation contains selected ingredients such as shiitake, aniseed and turmeric. Shiimun Gastro is of course no substitute for the administration of synthetic hormones. However, at least in dogs with Addison's disease, the supplement can help alleviate digestive problems and improve well-being.