Common symptoms of Addison's disease in canines include lack of appetite and weight loss, lethargy, diarrhea and vomiting, according to PetMD. Other symptoms to look out for are dehydration, hair loss, blood in feces, depression and shaking. Dogs with Addison's disease may also exhibit low temperature, weak pulse, increased thirst and increased urination.
Addison's disease, also called hypoadrenocorticism, is a disease of the adrenal gland, notes PetEducation.com. The disease involves a lowered level of corticosteroid secretion in the adrenal glands, which are close to the dog's kidneys. These glands are responsible for regulating normal body functions, which is why the disease causes many physical symptoms. Addison's disease is sometimes confused with Cushing's disease, which also occurs in the adrenal gland. However, Cushing's disease causes too much of the hormones in the glands instead of too little.
A dog with Addison's disease may be more prone to shaking and collapsing and may also experience a painful abdomen, explains PetMD.
Addison's disease is caused by a dog's adrenal glands producing a lower than normal amount of hormones, such as cortisol, notes the College of Veterinary Medicine at Washington State University. A dog needs these adrenal hormones to maintain a balance of salt, sugar and water within its body. The disease is most common in female canines, with the average age of onset being 4 years old. Stressful situations may cause symptoms of Addison's disease to appear or worsen because the dog is not able to produce the cortisol necessary to manage the stress.
Addison's disease in canines is diagnosed with the ACTH stimulation test, says PetEducation.com. This is a blood test that looks for varying levels of hormones in the adrenal glands. Other tests used to diagnose the disease include a blood count test and chemistry profile test. The vet is looking for a decrease in blood glucose and an increase of creatinine and blood urea nitrogen in the blood. If Addison's disease is confirmed, treatment includes replacing the glucocorticoids and mineralocorticoids that are missing from the dog's adrenal glands. This is accomplished with medication given twice a day.