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Symptoms and Signs of Addison’s Disease in Dogs

Source: PetWave, Updated on July 16, 2015
Addisons Disease

Effects of Addison’s Disease – From The Dog’s Point of View

Addison’s Disease affects different dogs in different ways and can vary widely among affected animals. The symptoms of Addison’s typically wax and wane, which means that they come and go over time. They can swing from mild to extremely severe for no apparent reason. Dogs with this disease tend to feel lousy in waves, especially when they are under stress such as during show, travel or boarding situations. They may experience belly pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, depression and other unpleasant symptoms of systemic illness.

Symptoms of Addison’s Disease – What The Owner Sees

Most experts agree that up to 90% of the adrenal cortex must be damaged or destroyed before a dog will show significant signs of Addison's Disease. While the symptoms of Addison’s in dogs are notoriously non-specific and can be caused by a number of different disorders, most attentive owners eventually spot the symptoms in their companions, even though they may not know why they are happening.

Outward signs of Addison’s may include one or more of the following:

  • Weakness
  • Lethargy; listnessness
  • Lack of appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Regurgitation
  • Slow pulse (bracycardia)
  • Diarrhea (+/- blood in stool)
  • Weight loss (often severe)
  • Abdominal pain
  • Poor skin and coat condition (dry; patchy; flaky; dull)
  • Increased thirst and water intake (polydypsia)
  • Increased volume of urine output (polyuria)
  • Shaking, trembling and shivering (neurological signs; with severe disease)
  • Shock
  • Seizures
  • Collapse
  • Coma
  • Death

Addison’s may be suspected when a dog deviates from its normal activities or routine for no apparent reason. For instance, if a dog is reluctant to jump on a couch or bed that it usually leaps onto happily, the owner should pay attention, because pain and muscle weakness from Addison’s could be contributing to the dog’s discomfort. While all of the above signs can be associated with other disorders, the symptoms of Addison’s usually become more severe and more frequent over time, as the dog’s body becomes increasingly damaged from the effects of the disease. One of the hallmarks of Addison's is that the signs worsen with stress.

Dogs At Increased Risk

Addison’s Disease is most commonly seen in young to middle-aged female dogs between 4 and 6 years of age. However, dogs of any age or gender can be affected. It is not entirely clear whether there are definitive breed predispositions for developing Addison’s Disease. Some authorities suggest that Great Danes, West Highland White Terriers, Bearded Collies, Standard Poodles, Rottweilers, Basset Hounds, Labrador Retrievers, Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers, Leonbergers, Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers and/or Portuguese Water Dogs are at increased risk. Because of this, a genetic component is suspected.

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