Best Treatments for Dogs with Addison’s Disease

Reviewed By Julie •  Updated: 10/01/20 •  9 min read
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Dogs can develop many of the same medical conditions as their humans, including Addison’s Disease. We’ll take look at what Addison’s disease is, the symptoms to watch for, how it’s treated and more.

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What is Addison’s Disease in dogs?

Addison’s disease, also called hypoadrenocorticism (HOAC), can be a serious disease in dogs. It is rare but is most often seen around mid-life in both males and females, though it’s most common in female dogs of this age. Addison’s can even show up in puppies, but is mostly found in adult female dogs. The disease develops when the adrenal glands stop functioning correctly.

HOAC may have a genetic component and is common in certain breeds, including Standard Poodles, Portuguese Water Dogs, Wheaten Terriers, Great Danes, Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers, Bearded Collies, and West Highland White Terriers. However, Addison’s can occur in any breed of dog, including mixed breeds.

Once diagnosed, your dog will need to be treated for this condition for the rest of her life. Addison’s disease dog life expectancy is good—most dogs will go on to live out their normal life expectancy. While Addison’s can be fatal, if caught early, and with prompt treatment and proper disease management, your dog can go on to lead a healthy life after diagnosis.

Causes of Addison’s Disease in Dogs

Addison’s disease develops when your dog’s adrenal glands produce low amounts of hormones (such as cortisol and aldosterone). Your dog has two adrenal glands—one near each kidney—which are responsible for producing adrenal hormones (mineralocorticoids and glucocorticoids) necessary to control certain bodily functions, including regulating water in the body, salt and sugar levels and even controlling stress reactions. HOAC can be due to either low levels of mineralocorticoids and/or glucocorticoids.

If your pup’s adrenal glands aren’t producing the right levels of the necessary hormones, then Addison’s can develop

Most dogs seem to have the chronic form of Addison’s, which can go undetected sometimes for years. It may not even be suspected until your dog has a major health emergency, which results in a diagnosis of Addison’s disease.

What causes the adrenal glands to stop producing the necessary hormones? There are several causes, the most common include:

There are three different types of dog’s Addison’s disease:

Primary: the primary form of Addison’s is the most common; it’s usually caused by autoimmune disease, which causes damage to adrenal tissue. Your pup’s adrenal glands don’t produce enough of either mineralocorticoids or glucocorticoids.

Secondary: is caused when your pup’s pituitary gland (located in the brain) fails to produce ACTH, a hormone that stimulates the adrenal glands.

Atypical: the atypical form of the disease is caused when the adrenal glands fail to produce only the glucocorticoid hormones, while still producing mineralocorticoids.

JADD: is the juvenile form of this disease, which is a genetic version of Addison’s in dogs.

Symptoms of Canine Addison’s Disease

The symptoms are sometimes hard to detect; they may come on suddenly, or they may develop slowly over time. Symptoms of Addison’s can come and go (wax and wane) or even be mild or severe over time, which also makes this disease difficult to detect. For these reasons, it’s important to take notice of even small changes in your dog’s health and the way she acts from day-to-day.

Some typical symptoms of Addison’s include:

What to Watch Out For

Your precious pet may not be as energetic as normal, she may have stomach and/or other digestive problems (not eating, vomiting, diarrhea). Your possibly Addison dog not eating, etc. Symptoms may appear to be mild—you may suspect a stomach virus, or maybe that she ate something bad, etc.

You may have notice that your pup isn’t handling stress as well as she used to. She becomes irritable, depressed, etc. if daily routines are interrupted for any reason.

Or maybe she’s thirsty all the time, doesn’t want her belly scratched like normal (due to abdominal pain), etc.

Your pup could also suddenly develop acute medical issues—meaning the medical problem comes on all of a sudden. This is called an Addison’s crisis and can lead to death, if not treated quickly.

These could all be signs she may be experiencing Addison’s disease. If you notice her symptoms seem to linger and/or that sometimes symptoms are better and then worse again, it’s probably time to call your veterinarian for an appointment.

This disease can be fatal, though it can be successfully treated if caught early. This is why it’s important to monitor your dog’s health at all times. Even small changes in her health can mean there’s a problem.

If you notice anything out of the ordinary in your pet’s health or daily routine, an appointment with your veterinarian could save your dog’s life


Your veterinarian will make a careful physical examination of your precious pet. They’ll also want to have a complete medical history, and what symptoms your pup’s been experiencing. Be sure to tell them about all the medications your dog’s been taking, list all of her symptoms (even if you believe they are nothing to worry about), when they first started and progressed, etc. This will help your veterinarian with the diagnosis, as Addison’s can be mistaken for other medical conditions.

After a complete physical exam, your veterinarian will more than likely also order some tests, including:

You veterinarian may also order a ACTH stimulation test. For this test, your pup will be injected with a small amount of ACTH. ACTH stimulates the adrenal glands to produce hormones, including cortisol. During the test, your pup will need to stay at the vet’s office—your veterinarian will need to draw blood at different time intervals to measure how much cortisol is present in the blood. If your dog’s adrenal glands are functioning normally, the blood test will reveal considerable amounts of cortisol in the blood. However, if your pup’s adrenal glands are not working properly, the test will only show a slight increase in the amount of cortisol present in her blood.

Additional tests may include an electrocardiogram (to check your dog’s heart rhythm), and/or ultrasound images of your fur baby’s abdomen (looking for any irregularity in the size and shape of her adrenal glands and other problems).

Treatment of Your Dog’s Addison’s Disease

Treatment of your pup’s Addison’s disease will depend on what type of Addison’s she has and the severity of her symptoms. If your pup’s diagnosed with an Addison’s crisis, she will need to have a hospital stay to begin treatment. Initial treatment involves the application of intravenous fluids to rehydrate your pup, “cortisol-like” medications to replace the hormones she’s lacking, and other medications to relieve other symptoms she may be having. Her hospital stay will help to stabilize your dog’s condition—most dog’s will survive an Addison’s crisis if treatment is begun quickly.

If your dog has been diagnosed with secondary or atypical Addison’s, then her treatment will likely be done at home, if she’s not in crisis. Your pup will need long-term treatment for this condition, meaning she’ll need to receive medications for the rest of her life. Your veterinarian will prescribe the proper medications needed to replace the hormones she’s missing. These medications may be in pill form or injections (that are given every 21-25 days). It maybe necessary to increase the amount of medication she needs during times of high stress (kennel stays, traveling, etc.).

Addison’s Disease Dog Treatment Cost

The diagnosis and treatment of Addison’s can be expensive. Numerous tests are sometimes required for proper diagnosis and then there are the costs of medications and the veterinarian’s bill, too. Pet health insurance is one option to help control costs. You would need to obtain health insurance before your pup becomes ill.

Another option to help with Addison’s disease dog treatment is to ask your veterinarian if there are lower-priced medications that can work the same as more expensive versions. In addition, to help alleviate the cost of your veterinarian’s treatment, it doesn’t hurt to ask if they offer a sliding fee repayment option. Just be honest and have an open discussion with your vet about any financial concerns. Many veterinarians are willing to help their patient’s human find a way to afford treatment.

Addison’s Dog Diet

Some veterinarians believe a dog’s diet can play a role in the development of Addison’s disease. Dog foods with high levels of preservatives, wheat gluten, starches, and other ingredients may increase your pet’s risk of developing this disease. So, what can you do to improve her diet?

Some experts recommend home cooked food for your dog, or even putting your dog on a raw food diet. Both diets use whole foods that are not filled with preservatives and other harmful ingredients. Whole food Ingredients are closer to nature, and therefore are a more natural choice for your pup.

While this may be true, be sure to check with your veterinarian before making any changes to your dog’s diet. Any type of stress can make your dog’s Addison’s worse. Your vet is the best person to recommend the proper foods for your Addison’s dog diet.

Summing It Up

An Addison’s disease dog life expectancy can be a normal life-span with prompt and proper care. It’s important to watch out for anything abnormal in your dog’s daily routine and health. Her life could depend on you noticing the smallest changes in her behavior or physical well-being. Remember, she is completely dependent on you and needs your help to maintain a healthy, happy life.


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Julie is a graduate of the University of North Carolina, Wilmington, where she studied Animal science. Though contrary to the opinion of her parents she was meant to study pharmacy, but she was in love with animals especially cats. Julie currently works in an animal research institute (NGO) in California and loves spending quality time with her little cat. She has the passion for making research about animals, how they survive, their way of life among others and publishes it. Julie is also happily married with two kids.