The adrenal system is the part of animals that controls hormone levels and not surprisingly, the adrenal gland is one of the main organs of the adrenal system. Hormones are central to all kinds of animal behavior from sexual behavior, to stress, to immune responses. Addison’s disease is the most common disease that affects the adrenal system in dogs leading to problems with the levels of particular hormones, namely glucocorticoids and mineralocorticoids which are central to metabolism.
Addison’s disease in dogs can be extremely difficult to diagnose because the symptoms associated with this condition are nonspecific. Lethargy, changes in appetite, weight loss, diarrhea, and vomiting are some of the most common symptoms seen in dogs with Addison’s disease but they can obviously be associated with a whole host of illnesses. However, many dog owners become suspicious that a more serious medical condition is at play when their dogs exhibit the symptoms of Addison’s disease repeatedly over a longer period of time.
While Addison’s disease is seen in all ages of dogs, it is most commonly diagnosed in young, female dogs. There is some evidence to suggest that there is a genetic link and certain breeds may be predisposed to the condition. Great Danes, Portuguese Water Dogs, Rottweilers, Standard poodles, and West Highland White Terriers seem to be especially susceptible to Addison’s disease in dogs.
Once the condition has been diagnosed, treatment focuses on providing your dog with supplements of glucocorticoids and mineralocorticoids. Prednisone is one of the most common treatments as it is known to enhance glucocorticoid levels at low doses. These oral treatments need to be administered for the life of your dog in order to control the symptoms associated with Addison’s disease in dogs. Left untreated, dogs with Addison’s disease may die prematurely so it is very important to seek treatment if you suspected your dog is suffering from this condition.