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Addison’s Disease in Dogs-Part 1 of 4 Part Series

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Addison’s disease has symptoms similar to many other diseases and is often misdiagnosed. Addison’s disease is an adrenal gland dysfunction and fatal if untreated, but with prompt and appropriate treatment dogs can live normal and active lives.

Typical Addison’s symptoms include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Muscle Weakness
  • Depression
  • Listlessness
  • Changes in coat, becoming thicker or thinner
  • Tremors
  • Shivering

Addison’s is normally diagnosed in dogs aged 4-6, but has been seen in puppies and dogs up to 12 years old.  Approximately 70% of Addison’s patients are female, and some dog breeds are more susceptible to the disease.

These breeds include:

  • Basset Hounds
  • Great Danes
  • German Shepherds
  • Labrador Retrievers
  • Rottweilers
  • Poodles

Addison’s is often misdiagnosed as inflammatory bowel disease, acute renal failure, liver disease, or pancreatitis.  The most dramatic symptom that often leads to correct diagnosis is Addisonian crisis.

A crisis can happen without warning, with a seemingly healthy dog at death’s door in a matter of hours. The dog will go into shock because of circulatory collapse.  Lack of adrenal hormones causes depletion of sodium and body fluids. When patients are treated in time with IV therapy and glucocorticoid steroids improvement is seen quickly, but is temporary and another crises will follow.

Addison’s crisis causes slow pulse, low blood pressure and the abnormal heartbeats. Other diseases cause different reactions like rapid heartbeat and seizures.  Most dogs in crisis have increased levels of BUN and creatinine which can be misdiagnosed as signs of renal failure.  A big difference is that dogs in Addison’s crisis respond much more dramatically to treatment than dogs with renal failure.

If you think your dog may be suffering from Addison’s, please consult your veterinarian immediately.  This disease is treatable if found quickly.

Next Monday, Part 2 of 4 -Diagnosing Addison’s Disease in Dogs

Source:  Whole Dog Journal, October 2011

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