The symptoms of Addison’s disease in dogs can be tricky to diagnose clinically. Addison’s symptoms often appear and then go away, coming and going over time. This makes it really easy to ignore your dog’s symptoms, as you think the problem has resolved itself.
However, even though your dog’s symptoms fade away, you need to keep track of any changes in your dog’s body and behavior. Keep a record of what kind of symptoms your dog has, when they appear and when you notice that they are gone.
Your dog may or may not have Addison’s but when you keep careful records, it will help your vet diagnose any condition that your dog develops.
Addison’s disease frequently sneaks up on pet parents and surprises them. Even though Addison’s disease develops slowly, extreme symptoms can pop up quickly.
And, if your dog has an advanced case of Addison’s, he can end up in a life threatening crisis. Often pet parents don’t become alarmed until their dog is in crisis.
Here is a comprehensive list of symptoms that you may see in your dog, if she has Addison’s disease. Keep in mind that no dog has all of these symptoms.
Symptoms You Might Notice in Your Dog
Weakness – gradual loss of muscle tone.
Depression – Your dog no longer enjoys familiar fun activities. She may even be less interested in spending time with you.
Lack of appetite – eating less or no interest at all in her food
Weight loss – Often a dog with Addison’s will lose quite a bit of weight quickly.
Vomiting– repeated episodes of vomiting, not just one time
Diarrhea– also repeated episodes
Bloody stools – Be suspicious of internal bleeding if your dog’s stools are streaked with red or black. This is true whether they are formed or diarrhea.
Hair loss – more than the usual amount of coat shedding, spots on your dog that have no hair
Shaking – usually intermittent or occasional, not all the time
Lethargy – lack of energy
Hyperpigmentation of skin – dark colored spots on your dog’s skin
Gastroenteritis – also known as stomach flu. With this infection, your dog will vomit and have diarrhea, sometimes with blood. Your dog’s vomit can be foamy and yellow colored from bile. To make things worse, your dog may have the dry heaves when his stomach is empty. Dogs with Addison’s can have repeated infections.
Collapse – If your dog collapses, it could mean that she is having an Addisonian crisis, also called an adrenal crisis, which is an emergency and life threatening. In this case, take your dog to the vet immediately.
Symptoms Your Vet Will Determine
Of course there are some symptoms that your vet will need to observe or test for. Your vet will order blood tests, a urine test and possibly a scan or two.
- Weak pulse
- Irregular heart rate – can be slow and irregular. Some dogs have heart rates of 50 beats/minute or slower. In this case, they are weak and can go into shock.
- Low temperature – You can get a dog thermometer and check this yourself at home.
- Painful abdomen
- Dehydration – Severe dehydration increases waste products in the blood. This is also seen in kidney disease and can lead to a misdiagnosis of kidney disease.
- Kidney failure or kidney stones
Addison’s vs Cushing’s
Even though sometimes confused, Addison’s and Cushing’s are quite different. While Addison’s disease is caused by too little cortisol, Cushing’s disease is caused by too much cortisol.
Technically the opposite of each other, the two diseases do share some of the same symptoms. This definitely complicates trying to diagnose your dog’s problems! Your vet will need to run blood tests and possibly do scans to make a firm diagnosis if either is suspected.
These are the symptoms we see in both Cushing’s and Addison’s:
- Muscle weakness
- Hair loss
- Frequent infections
Diagnosing Addison’s Disease in Dogs
In order to diagnose your dog’s condition, your vet will examine your dog physically and probably run some blood and urine tests and possibly an EKG or electrocardiogram to check your dog’s heart. In some cases, your vet will order a CT scan to see if there are any enlargements or abnormalities in your dog’s organs.
Your vet will be looking for:
- Anemia – low red blood cells
- Abnormally high levels of potassium and urea
- Abnormal levels of sodium, chloride and calcium in the blood
- Low concentrations of urine
- Urinary tract infection
- Abnormal heart rhythms
- Low levels of cortisol
- Low thyroid hormone or hypothyroidism
If your dog has been diagnosed with Addison’s, you might be interested in getting the book, Addison’s Disease in Dogs by S. Kenrose.
While it is disappointing to learn that your dog has a disease that will require lifelong care, Addison’s disease is easily treatable.
It’s good to know that, Addison’ disease will not shorten your dog’s life or impact her quality of life if she is treated appropriately and her hormones are back put in balance. With treatment, most dogs live a normal life.
If your dog has Addison’s disease, you might consider getting her a medical tag for her collar to insure her safety even when you are not around.