What should I do if my dog has Addison’s disease?

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If your dog has been diagnosed with Addison’s disease, it means that its adrenal glands are not producing adequate amounts of the hormones known as corticosteroids. These hormones aid in the metabolism of sugar, fat and protein and enable them to adapt to stress.

Standard poodles and Bearded collies are genetically predisposed to Addison’s disease. Incidence is higher in females than in males.

Left untreated, Addison’s disease can lead to serious health complications. Your dog’s metabolism is not functioning properly, and the imbalance of electrolytes can add strain to its heart. The reduced ability of the dog’s body to deal with stress can result in a stressed out dog going into what is called “Addisonian crisis.” Therefore, it is critical to work with your veterinarian to provide proper treatment for this disease.

Comprehensive lab work should be done to check the health and function of all of your dog’s metabolic systems. If it is extremely sick due to the condition, then the dog may need to be hospitalized for a few days to help stabilize it. IV fluids will help balance out your pet’s heart health and electrolyte balance. After it is stabilized, your veterinarian will start it on medication to replace what it is not producing herself.

Your dog will need to be on lifelong medications for Addison’s disease. Your veterinarian will most likely recommend a daily oral drug called fludrocortisone (AKA Florinef) or an injectable drug called DOCP (AKA Percorten-V) which is given every 25 days. You will need to visit your veterinarian frequently for the first few weeks to check your pet’s electrolytes and adjust the dose as needed. Some dogs also need to be given oral glucocorticoids.

Since these hormones help regulate your pet’s response to stress, it is a good idea to minimize stress in her life. You may need to speak with your veterinarian about adjusting the dose of her medication if they may be exposed to stressful situations such as boarding, house guests, etc. With proper treatment and careful following of your veterinarian’s advice, most dogs respond well to treatment and can live long, happy lives.

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