Dog Shaking? Addison’s Disease in Dogs Symptoms and Treatments

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addison's disease dog shaking under coverYou may have heard of this disease occurring in humans, but it can also occur in dogs too! Addison’s Disease in dogs involves the pair of adrenal glands which are located near the kidneys.

These glands are responsible for producing two important types of hormones essential for a healthy dog. If you do have a dog with Addison’s disease you may not even know it yet. Although rare, Addison’s disease in dogs can still happen and when it does occur, it should be addressed!

Does your dog have Addison’s? Read on to learn more about this disease!

Known As Hypoadrenocorticism: What is Addison’s Disease in Dogs?

So what exactly is Addison’s disease in dogs? Well, as mentioned earlier, it affects the hormone groups produced by the adrenal glands, mineralocorticoids, and glucocorticoids.

These hormones play an important role in blood pressure homeostasis and metabolism of glucose. So when the production of these hormones is abnormally low (like in Addison’s disease), adrenal insufficiency occurs and problems can arise.

There are many reasons hypoadrenocorticism might occur. The most common being an immune-mediated destruction of the adrenal cortex, which is related to a specific gene.

Other reasons include damaging infections of the adrenal cortex, thromboembolism or even neoplasia. The damaging effects occurring within the adrenal cortex, whatever the reason may be, can decrease the production of glucocorticoids and mineralocorticoids.

The most important mineralocorticoid is aldosterone. Aldosterone is important in regulating the sodium and potassium balance in the blood. Alteration of both potassium levels and sodium levels can cause severe dehydration and a low blood pressure! This can cause symptoms such as weakness and be cool to the touch.

On the other hand, the most important glucocorticoid would be cortisol. Cortisol levels respond to stress and low glucose levels. Without this hormone, you’d feel awfully tired and lethargic.

This is exactly what happens with dogs too! Dogs can present with a lethargic and tired demeanor due to the lack of glucose (sugar) circulating in their blood.

The emphasis here is the importance of both cortisol and aldosterone for a good healthy dog. And just to make it even more confusing, you can also get an increased production of these hormones too! But Cushing’s disease is another approach on its own.

To help you understand a little more about the role these hormones play in the body, we can dive a little deeper into the science of all!

A Little Science First! The Endocrine System

Whether you like it or not, none of us would be here without our endocrine system! The exact same goes mans best friend. The endocrine system describes a collection of glands which secrete hormones that regulate a variety of functions in the body. These include metabolism, growth, tissue function, homeostasis, and reproduction among other things.

So in other words, it is an extremely essential system to have! The adrenal gland is just one gland making up the endocrine system. But there are many more working just as hard! these include the pituitary gland, the pancreas, the ovaries and much more alike.

Within the endocrine system, many hormones which are secreted by one gland can affect the hormones secreted by another! for example, the pituitary gland located in the brain secretes the adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) which acts on the adrenal gland, increasing the number of glucocorticoids produced.

If there is something preventing the ACTH hormone being produced, that too can have effects on the adrenal gland and its function! This is referred to as secondary hypoadrenocorticism. Where there is a decrease in the amount of hormone being produced as a result of secondary interactions.

And yes, this too can happen with Addison’s disease in dogs! Hypoadrenocorticism in dogs can become a significant part of their life, so it’s important we have an idea of what might cause it!

white dog shivering due to addison's disease in dogs due aka Hypoadrenocorticism

Addison’s Disease Dogs: What Could be Causing this Disorder?

As mentioned earlier, there is not one single cause of this disease. Though, the most common reason for canine hypoadrenocorticism is the result of you dogs own immune system destroying the adrenal gland itself. Wondering why this occurs? You’re not alone, no one really knows whys this happens!

This is known as primary adrenal insufficiency because it affects the adrenal gland directly. Other ways the adrenal gland can be damaged directly include cancer, some toxins and even some forms of medication. This might occur due to medicine being prescribed for a previous condition, and as a side effect can damage the adrenal gland.

As previously mentioned, secondary adrenal insufficiency is when the hormonal activity of the adrenal gland is affected indirectly. This will typically only occur when the pituitary fails to secrete ACTH, the hormone which stimulates glucocorticoid production in the adrenal gland.

ACTH stimulation can also halt for a variety of reasons! The main reason typically is due to an abnormal growth near the pituitary gland causing defective function. However, regardless of the cause of Addison’s disease in dogs, the clinical signs will present similarly.

Though clinical signs for this disease are shared with many other canine diseases. This makes diagnoses very difficult!

Addison Disease Symptoms seen in Dogs!

Canine Addison’s disease is often referred to as ‘the great pretender’ due to its ability to mimic other common diseases in the dog! This is because symptoms can vary a lot! From weight-loss to excessive thirst, signs for canine additions will keep you on your toes!

Other important signs to be aware of include diarrhea, shaking and loss of appetite. In summary, these are known as an Addisonian crisis. Addisonian crisis is the combination of these signs, as well as increased urination suggesting your dog needs urgent medical attention.

So if you see any of these signs, seek a vet quickly! Keep in mind this disease is more common in the young, to middle-aged female dogs too!

Addison’s Disease Treatment! Here’s What Your Vet Will Do

Thankfully, there is an effective treatment for this disease!

dog is shaking at vet treatment due to symptoms of addison's disease dogs

If you take your dog in urgently with signs of Addisonian crisis, the initial focus from the vet will be stabilization. Often this is intensive care and involves a lot of fluid therapy. Once in a stable condition, the focus will turn to hormone replacements.

The FDA-approved treatment for canine Addison’s disease is Percorten-V, an injection containing desoxycorticosterone pivalate. The first month of hormonal treatment, expect to visit the vet a lot! Bloods will need to be taken to monitor your dog’s hormone levels and electrolyte balance in order to find the correct dose.

The doses can vary from dog to dog. Once the right dose is found, injections are suggested every 3 to 4 weeks. Before you know it you’re in a routine, and you and your best friend can get back to business!

Can this Endocrine Disorder be Cured?

Though the treatment is very successful, this disease is incurable! Unfortunately, this means your dog will need long-term treatment of hormonal injections for the rest of his life.

For most cases, quality of life is never affected by long-term treatment. But don’t let that bother you, rest assured your dogs quality of life will be of plenty!

Prognosis! Helping Your Dog Get through Hard Times

Good news! The prognosis for an Addison’s disease dog is good to excellent! Once successfully diagnosed and on a well suited hormonal plan, these dogs are typically back to mischief in no time.

Though, there can be some fiddling around with the dose rate before the optimum levels are found. During this first month or two, it is important to give a little more attention to your dog.

Finding the right hormone levels for your dog can be a lot of effort and him probably won’t feel too well! However, if you help him through this short few months, he will be back to his normal happy self in no time!

What is the Life Expectancy of A Dog with Addison’s Disease?

After some dedicated attention from a vet, these dogs will generally live long happy lives! With no anticipated disease-related problems affecting their if expectancy, these dogs will motor through life like any other dog. So, once you’ve got you hormonal plan underway for your canine, there really is no turning back.

4 Facts You Need to Know About this Disease in Dogs!

  1. Some dogs are more susceptible than others to this disease. Portuguese water dogs, bearded collies, and standard poodles are all predisposed breeds to canine Addison’s disease.
  2. The gold standard for diagnosing this disease is the ACTH stimulation test. It’s worth asking your vet about their route of diagnoses!
  3. Cushing’s disease is the opposite to Addison’s disease in dogs. It is the result of an over-production of these hormones and is actually more common!
  4. If you do have a dog with Addison’s disease, its best to know early! Early symptoms may include abdominal pain darkening of the skin and salt cravings! If you notice any of these, don’t be shy to ask the vet.

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