Addison’s Disease in Dogs: Symptoms, Treatment & Prevention

Addison’s Disease in Dogs: Symptoms, Treatment & Prevention

Alpha Paw Sale

Aug 02, 2021

Table of Contents

Key Points

  • Addison’s disease in dogs is a hormone disorder where important hormones in the body are not being produced at adequate levels.
  • Addison’s in dogs is also known as hypoadrenocorticism.
  • The most common symptoms of Addison’s disease in dogs include lethargy, vomiting, and diarrhea.
  • Addison’s disease is diagnosed by running a blood test called the ACTH stimulation test.

  • The treatment for Addison’s disease includes hormone replacement therapies through injections and oral medications prescribed by your veterinarian.

What is Addison’s disease in dogs?

Addison’s disease, also known as hypoadrenocorticism, is a disease in which hormone production is decreased. Many hormones are produced by the adrenal glands. They are two small organs that live inside your dog’s belly near the kidneys. These hormones are important for normal body functions and promote the overall health of your dog. With Addison’s disease in dogs, there are not enough hormones being produced by the adrenal glands.

What triggers Addison’s disease in dogs?

Addison’s in dogs occurs when the adrenal glands fail to produce the hormones that the body needs. This is usually an immune-mediated process meaning the body thinks that the adrenal glands are a foreign substance so the body will attack itself which will destroy the adrenal glands. Without enough hormones in your dog’s system, they can become very sick. Sometimes Addison’s disease can occur when treating Cushing’s disease in dogs as the medication for this disease can affect the production of hormones.

Addison's disease in dogs: symptoms, treatment & prevention

What are the symptoms of Addison disease in dogs?

The symptoms of Addison’s disease in dogs are often vague, non-specific, and can wax and wane. As symptoms can often be non-specific, Addison’s in dogs can be frequently mistaken for other diseases such as kidney failure, cancer, and pancreatitis. Because of this, Addison’s disease is also known as the great pretender. Many symptoms of Addison’s disease in dogs get worse during times of stress.

According to the AKC, the most common Addison’s disease in dogs symptoms include:

  • Decreased appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Losing weight
  • Lethargy
  • Increased drinking and urination
  • Shaking

Is Addison’s disease common in dogs?

Addison’s disease is an uncommon disease in dogs. Addison’s in dogs usually appears in middle-aged dogs at an average age of 3 to 7 years. This disease can affect almost any age of a dog and has even been reported in dogs as young as 4 months of age and as old as 14 years of age. Female dogs are at a higher risk for developing Addison’s disease and certain dog breeds seem to be more prone to developing Addison’s disease.

What dog breeds are prone to Addison’s disease?

Addison’s disease in dogs may have some genetic components. Certain dog breeds have a higher risk of developing Addison’s disease. Researchers from Animal Medical Center found that the following dog breeds may be more prone to developing Addison’s disease:

What is atypical Addison’s disease in dogs?

Atypical Addison’s disease occurs when only certain layers of the adrenal glands are destroyed. This means that the dog is still able to produce certain hormones but not others. This can result in varying symptoms that may make Addison’s disease a little more difficult to diagnose. Dogs with atypical Addison’s disease usually have intermittent symptoms of diarrhea, decreased appetite, and vomiting.

How is Addison’s disease in dogs diagnosed?

If you suspect your dog has Addison’s disease, I recommend contacting your veterinarian as soon as possible. Your veterinarian may recommend x-rays and blood work to rule out other more common conditions.

The blood work may have some findings that suggest Addison’s disease. If your veterinarian suspects Addison’s, they will likely recommend an ACTH stimulation test to diagnose Addison’s disease. The test will show if your dog has low levels of the hormone cortisol which is suggestive of Addison’s disease.

Addison's disease in dogs: symptoms, treatment & prevention

What is the treatment for Addison’s disease in dogs?

The treatment for Addison’s disease is supportive care and hormone replacement therapy. Some dogs with Addison’s disease present extremely ill. These dogs will often need hospitalization and IV fluid replacement to balance your dog’s electrolytes.

Your veterinarian will administer injectable hormones called desoxycorticosterone pivalate (DOCP) every 3 to 4 weeks. In addition, you will have to give your dog oral steroid hormones for the rest of their life. When your dog gets home from the vet hospital, you will want to make sure they have a comfortable and quiet recovery area, so check out this machine-washable cozy calming bed for dogs.

How much does it cost to treat Addison’s disease in dogs?

The treatment cost for Addison’s in dogs varies depending on several factors. If your dog is extremely ill and needs to be hospitalized, the bill could easily run into the thousands. According to Embrace Pet Insurance, the average cost to manage a dog with Addison’s can range from $50 to $200 per month. This cost depends on your pet’s response to therapy and how often follow-up blood work needs to be performed. Your veterinarian will be able to give you a more accurate estimate of the cost of treatment for your dog.

What happens if you don’t treat Addison’s disease in dogs?

If you don’t treat Addison’s in dogs, it can be fatal. To function properly, the body needs hormones. Without hormone therapy, the electrolytes in your dog’s system cannot be balanced. If the dog’s electrolytes become imbalanced, this can result in severe dehydration, fatal heart arrhythmias, shock, collapse, and even death.

How long can dogs live with Addison’s disease?

If caught early before your dog is extremely ill, the prognosis for Addison’s disease in dogs is generally very good. There are effective and safe medications that can be used to manage Addison’s disease. These medications will need to be given for the rest of your dog’s life. Often, dogs with Addison’s disease that are treated with lifelong hormone replacement therapy will die of some other cause.

Preventing Addison’s Disease in Dogs

Unfortunately, there are not effective options for preventing most cases of Addison’s disease in dogs. For the drug-induced Addison’s cases, it is important to follow your veterinarian’s instructions on administering medications. Always be monitoring for side effects of medications in your dog and alert your veterinarian if you notice anything unusual.

More Blog Articles You May Enjoy…

If you enjoyed reading this vet corner article, head over to our vet corner section where more expert advice can be found.

Alpha Paw Sale
author image

Dr. Addie Reinhard, DVM

Member of Alpha Paw’s Board of Pet Experts

Dr. Addie Reinhard is an experienced companion animal veterinarian who lives in Lexington, KY with her husband, greyhound, and four cats. She graduated from the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine, and currently practices in the central Kentucky region. Dr. Addie has special interests in preventative care, dermatology, and diseases, and she enjoys creating helpful educational resources related to these topics to help pet parents keep their four-legged family members happy and healthy. We love Dr. Addie’s passion for providing reliable veterinary insight and medical advice to help pet parents like us give their pups the happy & healthy lives they deserve!

Top Posts

Hot Spots on Dogs: Causes, Treatment & Prevention [Vet Expert Guide]
Hot Spots on Dogs: Causes, Treatment
How To Clean Dog Ears in 4 Easy Steps (According to Our Vet)
How To Clean Dog Ears in 4 Easy Step
The Essential New Puppy Checklist Your Family Needs
The Essential New Puppy Checklist Yo
How to Spot Fleas on Dogs: Signs, Solutions, and Prevention
How to Spot Fleas on Dogs: Signs, So
What Is Leptospirosis in Dogs? Here’s Everything You Should Know
What Is Leptospirosis in Dogs? Here&

Welcome to our Vet Corner

Each week, we publish high-quality, helpful content written & reviewed by our team of board-certified veterinary specialists. Think of us as your partners in pet parenthood: we’re here to provide you with expert medical answers to your pet health questions, so you can continue to give your pets the happy & healthy lives they deserve.

The Vet Stamp of Approval

Ah, the coveted Vet Stamp of Approval. We live for this badge. When you see it, you’ll know you’re in good hands. (Not seeing the badge on an article that needs it? Reach out to us and we’ll get right on it!)


The medical, nutritional, or behavioral advice we provide is intended for informational and educational purposes only. Our editorial content is not a substitute for formal or personalized medical advice from a veterinary professional. Only board-certified veterinary specialists who have examined your pet should diagnose medical conditions, provide personalized treatment, or prescribe appropriate medication. For questions regarding your pet’s health, or if your pet is exhibiting signs of illness, injury, or distress, contact your veterinarian immediately. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on our site.