How to Care for a Dog With Addison’s Disease

Dogs with Addison’s Disease can live long, healthy lives with the right care.

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Q. Our 7-year-old Beagle-Lab mix has just been diagnosed with Addison's disease. What info, management tips, etc., can you give? There is a lot of information on what Addison's is, but not much help with coping long term.

A. Dogs diagnosed with Addison's Disease can do quite well and have a long, healthy life if they are monitored and medicated regularly. This is easier said than done, and requires a significant time and financial commitment from you, the pet owner.

Addison's Disease refers to an inability of part of the adrenal gland to secrete hormones necessary for the regulation of important electrolytes such as potassium, sodium, and the stress hormone cortisol.

Most, but not all, dogs with Addison's Disease are middle-aged and female. Bearded Collies and Standard Poodles seem to be more prone to it, but it can affect any breed, any sex or any age dog.

Signs of Addison's Disease in dogs can be subtle, but usually involve weakness, vomiting or diarrhea, lethargy or collapse. Diagnosis is done with a very specific blood test, done after injecting a hormone specifically designed to stimulate cortisol secretion.

Treatment consists of supplementing the missing hormones that will help regulate potassium, sodium and cortisol. This can be done with a daily oral pill, or an injection given about every 25 days. In either event, blood levels of sodium, potassium and cortisol need to be checked on a regular basis to make sure the dose of medication is accurate.

You can also notice subtle signs that the disease may not be well controlled, such as listlessness, loss of appetite, vomiting or diarrhea.

Work closely with your veterinarian on rechecks and follow up. Good luck, and hopefully your pooch will do well.


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Gloria   Rio Vista, California

7/30/2014 12:28:00 AM

My dog Precious was diagnosed with addisons disease in Nov 2012 at age 2. She had seemed depressed and would not play anymore like she had a few weeks before this. She has lots of urine accidents. I felt like something was wrong and was almost too late to save her. The day of Thanksgiving is when I woke up to get ready to go to families and I always brought precious with me. I went to wake her up from her bed and she was not moving or responding to me at all! It freaked me out instantly. I picked her up and she rolled her eyes in the back of her head and was limp. I tried to see if she would sit by her water bowl to get water and she collapsed! I instantly was on the phone to every emergency clinic and only ONE was willing to stay open for me until I arrived. I brought her into the car and she was urinating and pooping all over. Wrapped a blanket around her and cried the whole way to the clinic which took about 40minutes from where I lived. I got her there literally before everything in her body shut down. Tb doctor put her on iv and saline, oxygen and ran a billion blood and urine panels. Thankfully by the luck of the Lord this vet had dealt with a few addison cases, which come to find out was rare. She asked my permission to test overnight at the hospital for definate answer. I of course agreed even knowing that it was going to put me into debt (being a college student). I went bqck the next morning and sure enough the results came back that it was Addisons disease and that they saved her life. I was so thankful to this vet. She gave up her whole thanksgiving out of the kindness of her heart and for the great love she had for animals to help my dog and I. Precious was on a prednisone regimen for a few months and slowly weaned off and is now only on a Percorten injection every 25 days. She is doing very well since the crisis. She sometimes has an odd spout of depression or stress in which I have to give her a prednisone, but overall she is happy and healthy. Thought I would share my story. It's a scary thing to have to go through and now I will be so much more aware of any symptom, even if I'm just over worried.

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jo   International

5/5/2013 6:09:04 AM

just a warning to all those with an addison dog which is on pred, our poodle/lab cross was diagnosed but was not doing very well, and kept having crisis so the vet kept upping the pred till she was on x4 per day, her hair started thinning to the extent that she had almost no hair on her back/sides so we were pressing the vet to ask a specialist they came back to him and said to get her off the pred asap as this was a massive overdose unfortunately it was to late to prevent her becomeing an insulin dependant diabetic 2x injections a day. she should have been getting more fludrocortisone to keep her electrolytes in balance, if this is kept right the pred is not needed as much.

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Sue   Cheyenne, Wyoming

3/25/2013 11:01:32 PM

Our 3 yr English Pointer was just diagnosed with AD. He is at the vet clinic in crisis. We had noticed a few of the symptoms but nothing major, seems to be common. Had never heard of AD. We thought he was just depressed by the cold winter weather & lack of his usual long runs with the horses in the Mtns. Now we are praying he will make it thru the nite. I've been researching like crazy since we got home. It helps to know that he may have a chance at recovery & a good life.

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Debbie   Prescott, Arizona

3/14/2013 3:42:48 PM

There is an excellent support group for addisonian dogs, addisondogs.com. You can ask questions and get alot of answers from the members, all of whom have addison dogs. My dog was diagnosed in Feb 2013 after a crisis, during which she almost died! Stll not well controlled, having to fiddle with Pred doses. Jessie is a (now) 90 lb yellow lab, down 10 lbs since the episode.

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