The symptoms of canine Addison’s disease are tricky to diagnose clinically. Addison’s symptoms often appear and then go away, coming and going over time. This makes it really easy to ignore your Weimaraner’s symptoms, as you think the problem has resolved itself.
However, even though your dog’s symptoms fade away, you need to keep track of any changes in your dog’s body and behavior. Keep a record of what kind of symptoms your dog has, when they appear, and when you notice that they are gone.
Your dog may or may not have Addison’s but when you keep careful records, it will help your vet diagnose any condition that your Weimaraner develops.
Addison’s disease frequently sneaks up on pet parents and surprises them. Even though Addison’s disease develops slowly, be on the lookout for extreme symptoms, because they often appear quickly.
And, if your dog has an advanced case of Addison’s, he can end up in a life threatening crisis. Often pet parents don’t become alarmed until their dog is in crisis.
Like Cushing’s disease, Addison’s has a long list of symptoms that any dog might develop. Because there are so many symptoms, Addison’s is often confused with other common Weimaraner illnesses.
Here is a comprehensive list of symptoms of canine Addison’s disease that you may see in your dog. Keep in mind that no dog has all of these symptoms.
Symptoms of Canine Addison’s You Might See
- Weakness – gradual loss of muscle tone.
- Depression – Your dog no longer enjoys familiar fun activities. She may lose interest spending time with you.
- Lack of appetite – Your dog eats less and may lose interest in eating.
- Weight loss – Often a dog with Addison’s will lose quite a bit of weight quickly.
- Vomiting– Your dog vomits repeatedly, not just one time
- Diarrhea– Your dog also has repeated episodes of diarrhea.
- Bloody stools – Be suspicious of internal bleeding if your dog’s stools are streaked with red or black. This is true whether they are formed or diarrhea.
- Hair loss – Your Weimaraner loses more than the usual amount of hair and has areas that no longer have hair at all.
- Shaking – Your dog shakes, usually occasionally, not all the time.
- Lethargy – You notice that your dog just doesn’t seem to have the energy to play, run or even take walks.
- Hyperpigmentation of skin – Dark colored spots appear on your dog’s skin
- Gastroenteritis – also known as stomach flu. With this infection, your dog will vomit and have diarrhea, sometimes with blood. Your dog’s vomit can be foamy and yellow colored from bile. To make things worse, your dog may have the dry heaves when his stomach is empty. Dogs with Addison’s can have repeated infections.
- Collapse – If your dog collapses, it could mean that she is having an Addisonian crisis, also called an adrenal crisis, which is an emergency and life threatening. In this case, take your dog to the vet immediately.
Symptoms Your Vet Will Determine
Of course there are some symptoms that your vet will need to observe or test for. Your vet will order blood tests, a urine test and possibly a scan or two.
- Weak pulse
- Irregular heart rate – can be slow and irregular. Some dogs have heart rates of 50 beats/minute or slower. In this case, they are weak and can go into shock.
- Low temperature – You can get a dog thermometer and check this yourself at home. Since many dogs object strongly to anal temperature taking, I recommend an ear thermometer. The thermometers do use batteries, so they will probably need to have a battery changed in about 5 years.
- Painful abdomen
- Dehydration – Severe dehydration increases waste products in the blood. This is also seen in kidney disease and can lead to a misdiagnosis of kidney disease.
- Kidney failure or kidney stones
Addison’s vs Cushing’s
Even though sometimes confused, Addison’s and Cushing’s are quite different. While Addison’s disease is caused by too little cortisol, Cushing’s disease is caused by too much cortisol.
Technically the opposite of each other, the two diseases do share some of the same symptoms. This definitely complicates trying to diagnose your dog’s problems! Your vet will need to run blood tests and possibly do scans to make a firm diagnosis if either is suspected.
These are the symptoms we see in both Cushing’s and Addison’s:
- Muscle weakness
- Hair loss
- Frequent infections
Diagnosing Addison’s Disease in Dogs
In order to diagnose your dog’s condition, your vet will examine your dog physically and probably run some blood and urine tests and possibly an EKG or electrocardiogram to check your dog’s heart.
In some cases, your vet will order a CT scan to see if there are any enlargements or abnormalities in your dog’s organs.
Your vet will be looking for:
- Anemia – low red blood cells
- Abnormally high levels of potassium and urea
- Abnormal levels of sodium, chloride and calcium in the blood
- Low concentrations of urine
- Urinary tract infection
- Abnormal heart rhythms
- Low levels of cortisol
- Low thyroid hormone or hypothyroidism
If your dog has been diagnosed with Addison’s, you might be interested in getting the book, Addison’s Disease in Dogs by S. Kenrose.
While it is disappointing to learn that your dog has a disease that will require lifelong care, Addison’s disease is easily treatable.
It’s good to know that, Addison’ disease will not shorten your dog’s life or impact her quality of life if she is treated appropriately and her hormones are back put in balance. With treatment, most dogs live a normal life.
If your dog has Addison’s disease, you might consider getting her a medical tag for her collar to insure her safety, even when you are not around.