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Addison disease in dogs symptomsCAUSES OF ADDISON’S DISEASE IN DOGS

Addison’s disease is a condition characterized by adrenal insufficiency. This means that the adrenals are not producing sufficient cortisol for normal body functions.

Though slightly difficult to diagnose due to many generalized symptoms, the causes of Addison’s disease are usually related to the adrenal gland (and sometimes, the pituitary gland). Both of these glands are responsible for producing certain types of important hormones. In order for your dog’s body to function properly, it is required that a proper balance of hormones is present at all times.

Here are some of the most common documented causes of Addison disease in dogs and adrenal insufficiency.


  • Adrenal Dysgenesis is a rare genetic condition in which the adrenal gland has not formed properly during a dog’s early development.
  • This is extremely rare, and is only identifiable by examining the adrenal gland itself. Also, Adrenal Dysgenesis usually affects a dog immediately after birth, and will cause immediate and possibly serious health complications.


  • In this condition, the adrenal gland is unable to produce cortisol on a biochemical level. In order to produce cortisol, cholesterol is required by the adrenal gland.
  • The cholesterol is then converted into steroid hormones. There are certain medical conditions that can interrupt the proper delivery of cholesterol to the adrenal glands, which in turn will prevent the proper production of cortisol.

3. ADRENAL DESTRUCTION (Autoimmune Attack )

  • In Adrenal Destruction, the adrenal gland is progressively damaged by disease and is subsequently unable to function. The most common cause of Adrenal Destruction is a situation in which the dog’s immune system mistakenly attacks the adrenal glands.
  • This is called an autoimmune attack and can cause serious damage to the outer layer of the adrenal glands.


  • If your dog has been prescribed any type of steroid therapy medication for a prolonged period of time, this can actually bring about Addison’s disease.
  • This is because prolonged frequent use of steroid hormones can cause progressive damage to the adrenal glands, most commonly seen by use of the steroid hormone prednisone.


In rare cases, Addison’s disease, and the subsequent adrenal insufficiency can be caused by an improperly functioning pituitary gland. The pituitary gland is responsible for producing certain hormones that affect hormone production in the rest of the body. The hormone produced by the pituitary gland that directly affects the production of cortisol by the adrenal gland is called ACTH. If the pituitary gland is not producing enough ACTH, the adrenal gland will not produce cortisol, resulting in the condition known as Addison’s disease.

The pituitary gland can be improperly functioning if it has any damage or obstruction to normal operation. This can be caused by tumors in the pituitary gland, exposure to severe radiation, infection of the pituitary gland, or damage to the pituitary gland during surgery. Surgery-induced damage to the pituitary gland is most commonly seen in procedures to remove the hypothalamus, which is a procedure rarely done on dogs.


  • The adrenal glands are also responsible for producing a hormone called Aldosterone.
  • Aldosterone helps to regulate blood pressure, and allows the kidneys to maintain a proper water vs. salt balance in the body (by helping the kidneys retain sodium and excrete potassium).
  • If the adrenal glands are not functioning properly, and the production level of Aldosterone drops, this can cause a drop in blood pressure and severe dehydration.
  • Mis-functioning adrenal glands are the main cause of Addison’s disease.


Addison’s disease is a very serious condition that, if not treated, can cause some very serious health complications for your dog. However, it is slightly difficult to diagnose Addison’s disease in dogs, due to the general quality of the symptoms.
Above all, it is important to seek veterinary advice if you notice any changes in your dog’s health, as these are always cause for concern.

The adrenal gland is responsible for producing cortisol, which has direct effects on how your dog’s body is able to handle stress. Cortisol also helps to regulate how efficiently your dog’s body is able to use carbohydrates, protein and fat, as well as helping to maintain proper cardiovascular functions. Due to the importance of cortisol, Addison’s disease and the resulting adrenal insufficiency can cause some serious health complications for your dog.


    • A common Addison disease in dogs symptoms is a noticeable weakness in your dog’s muscles.
  • This is easily identifiable by observing any change in your dog’s normal activities.
  • Most dogs with Addison’s disease will be unable to jump up on the bed, have trouble climbing stairs, or show a lack of any enthusiasm for any activity involving physical exertion.
  • Dogs with Addison’s disease may also seem listless or depressed. They may show a lack of interest in normal everyday activities and will spend a lot of time lying down.
    This is a telltale sign that something is wrong, and should be a good reason to bring your dog to the veterinarian as soon as possible.


  • Gastrointestinal problems such as vomiting and diarrhea are very common in dogs with Addison’s disease.
  • Dogs with Addison’s disease may have either one or both of these symptoms, and their vomit or diarrhea may be accompanied by traces of blood.
  • However, both of these symptoms are also symptoms of many other diseases, so it is impossible to positively diagnose a dog with Addison’s disease purely on basis of vomiting and diarrhea.


A dog with Addison’s disease will often display small patches or spots of darkened skin, even in areas not exposed to the sun. This is most common around a dog’s armpits, mucous membranes, or the inside of the cheek.


Joints pain is very common Addison disease in dogs symptoms. This is usually an easily identifiable symptom, as your dog will show a reluctance for any activity involving excessive movement. A dog with Addison’s disease may also whimper or yelp when walking, or may walk with a noticeable limp.


This symptom is a definite sign that a dog is suffering from a medical condition. A dog with Addison’s disease may show a lack of enthusiasm for mealtimes, and may eat in smaller portions than normal. Though this symptom is not unique to Addison’s disease, it should be treated as an indication that your dog may need veterinary attention.


Dogs with Addison’s disease may also shiver, or shake uncontrollably on a regular basis. Muscle tremors are not to be ignored, as they can be a symptom of many other serious health conditions besides Addison’s disease. If your dog is exhibiting muscle tremors, or occasionally shakes uncontrollably, it is strongly recommended to seek veterinary attention immediately.


Though Addison’s disease can be a very serious health condition for your dog, the most difficult aspect of this disease is getting a positive diagnosis. Due to the generality of the ADDISON DISEASE IN DOGS SYMPTOMS, it is often misdiagnosed, or ignored completely by pet owners.

A positive diagnosis of your dog for Addison’s disease may take some time, but once you are aware of your dog’s condition, the treatment options available are fairly straightforward and usually very effective.
Most of these treatments use medications to replace the lacking hormones in your dog’s body, usually cortisol or aldosterone. In serious cases of Addison’s disease, your dog may have to be hospitalized for several days to receive constant medication and hormone therapy.


Using intravenous saline is sometimes an immediate veterinary treatment once your dog has been positively diagnosed with Addison’s disease. This is combined with intravenous supplements of dextrose, along with injections of hydrocortisone. Usually, this procedure is only done in very severe cases of Addison’s disease, or if your dog is having an “

addisoniancrisis”(in which high levels of potassium, low glucose levels, and low blood pressure are at a life-threatening level).


This is also an immediate treatment that may be done by your veterinarian as soon as a positive diagnosis for Addison’s disease is confirmed. Since the adrenal glands are not producing enough cortisol, an injection of synthetic cortisol may provide immediate relief for some of your dog’s symptoms.


Hydrocortisone tablets are part of the maintenance treatment therapy usually required by dogs with Addison’s disease. Because your dog’s adrenal glands are not functioning, it may be prescribed by your veterinarian to give your dog Hydrocortisone tablets once or twice per day. Hydrocortisone tablets are also called “Cortef”, and help to restore normal levels of cortisone in your dog’s body.

Since Cortef is used as a replacement for the cortisone normally secreted by your dog’s adrenal glands, it is possible that your veterinarian may have to raise or lower your dog’s dosage until you begin to see significant improvement. Cortef is part of a lifetime treatment for your dog, as they will require Hydrocortisone tablets for the rest of their life.


Fludrocortisone acetate acts as a replacement for the hormone aldosterone. Aside from producing cortisol, the adrenal glands are also responsible for producing aldosterone. Addison’s disease is only caused by improper production for aldosterone in very rare cases, as cortisol deficiency is much more common. Aldosterone is responsible for maintaining blood pressure, and the water to salt balance in the body. Aldosterone helps the kidneys to retain sodium while excreting potassium. A deficiency in Aldosterone is very serious, and requires that your dog start a medication therapy with Fludrocortisone acetate immediately.


Prednisone is a corticosteroid that helps to restore normal levels of cortisol in your dog’s body. Prednisone can be taken either orally or intravenously, depending on your veterinarian’s specific directions for your dog’s prescription.

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