Addison’s Disease in Dogs – Adrenal Gland Imbalance

You may have heard of Cushing’s Disease, which is the result of overproduction of Cortisol in people and pets – especially dogs.

Addison’s Disease (hyoadrenocorticism) occurs far less often than Cushing’s…and is the opposite condition…meaning…it’s caused by the LOWER than normal production of hormones, such as Cortisol.

Both of these diseases can develop from the adrenals (or pituitary gland) not functioning properly.

The adrenals are small glands located near the kidneys.

The hormones they produce are responsible for regulating much of the bodies internal function.

These hormones control sugar, salt, and water balance in the body…and are crucial for proper stress management in your pet.

There are actually three types of Addison’s disease – primary, secondary, and atypical. Most times both outer and middle layers of the adrenals under-produce hormones which lead to primary AD. Atypical AD is when the middle layer fails and secondary AD results from pituitary gland failure which acts on the adrenals.

Symptoms of Addison’s Disease

Symptoms can pop up suddenly and can appear severe at times. Addison’s often goes misdiagnosed as kidney failure and is known as the great imitator for this reason.

Signs include:

  • Weakness, tiredness, lack of energy, or lethargy
  • Lack of appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Increased thirst
  • Increased urine production

When your dog is stressed – normal adrenal glands produce more cortisol (hormone) which helps them deal with that stress factor. Dog’s with Addison’s disease Can’t make enough cortisol they are unable to deal with stress. Changes in their daily routine, house guests or the introduction of new animals to the household, trips to vet or groomer are all stressful to your pet.

These stress factors can increase the signs and symptoms of Addison’s.

If symptoms are sudden and severe, the situation is called an Addisonian crisis. Under stressful conditions a dog may literally collapse from shock as a result of an electrolyte imbalance and the rapid change to their metabolism.

Is Your Dog At Risk?

It’s estimated that between 70-80% of dogs with Addison’s are female between the ages of 4 and 7.

Certain breeds have been recorded to be more prone to the disease and include:

  • Great Danes
  • Labrador Retrievers
  • Portuguese Water Spaniels
  • Poodles (Standard)
  • Rottweiler

The genetic history of your pet may be a contributing factor but its highly likely other things play a role in the development of this disease. Other possible suspects include:

  • Processed Food – Preservative, starches, and wheat gluten trigger nutritional imbalances and add to toxin build-up.
  • Over-vaccination – excessive vaccinations throws the immune system out of alignment which causes dysfunction in the other system in the body. Known to be a catalyst for creating antibodies against its own tissues. Adrenal and pituitary glands are particularly vulnerable.
  • Deficient nutrition – a diet short on probiotics, minerals, vitamins, and omega oils impact proper functioning of cells, gland, and organs.
  • Stress or Trauma – abuse, abandonment, or fearful situations can predispose endocrine system dysfunction in your dog.

Examination and Diagnosis

Getting your dog to the vet for testing is crucial for you to identify what exactly is going on in your dogs endocrine system.

Examinations include observation (depression, weakness, dehydration, weak pulse or irregular heartbeat. Routine Lab tests for blood and urine usually reveal things such as changes in white blood cells and increase in potassium in the blood.

Severe dehydration increase waste products in your dog’s blood which overworks the kidneys. That primarily why Addison’s disease if often confused with kidney disease.

Conventional Treatment for Addison’s Disease

Basically conventional veterinary care consists of two stages of treatment for Addison’s Disease. For starters…step one is In-hospital treatment, which may include IV fluids and drugs similar to cortisol. Additional drugs to neutralize effects of potassium in the heart may also be recommended.

The second stage is…long term treatment involves a semi-frequent administration of hormones. These can be given to your dog with a daily pill or by shot about every 25 days. Symptoms may go away for a while whether you treat your dog or not. Either way, there is no cure for the this treatment would be for the rest of their life most likely.

Home Remedies for Addison’s Disease

This disease should not be taken likely so be sure to see your veterinarian for a proper diagnosis and definitely before you start a herbal treatment method.

DIET- Holistic vets suggest that the modern dog doesn’t get enough glandular tissue in their diet – leading them to be more prone to autoimmune disease. You may wish to small amounts of liver and kidneys to your dog with their meals.

I strongly recommend you change to home-made foods for your dog. Here’s another article on how to make healthy homemade dog food on your own.

A holistic vet can answer question on whether using glandular therapy is a good option.

HERBS – There are quite few herbs that are known to be beneficial to proper adrenal functions. Spirulina  (blue-green algae), Parsley, Dandelion, Nettle, and Milk Thistle can all be feed to your dog with Addison’s disease.

Turmeric (Curcumin) will also boost a dog’s immune system.

Borage and Licorice root extract are also recommended herbs as a supplement. Not licorice the candy.

There are many herbal supplements that combine some of these items together in one dosage that you can give by drops or capsules

SUPPLEMENTS – Essential Fatty Acids and other natural antioxidants like Vitamins A, C, and E also are a benefit to Dog’s with Addison’s disease.

Essential Fatty Acids include- fish oil, cod liver oil, and sardine oil are all rich in Omega-3 fatty acids. Hempseed oil and flax seed are two more options.

Long Term Prognosis for Your Dog With Addison’s Disease

Most doggy patients with Addison’s Disease end up with a very good prognosis once the condition is identified and properly diagnosed. Once your dog has been stabilized you can then explore long-term care and maintenance for your pet.

This is definitely a disease in which you need expert advice from your vet to properly care for your dog.

Changing your dogs diet and adding supplements, herbs, and essential fatty acids will help keep your dogs body in balance.

And that is what true health is anyway.

Please leave your questions,comments, or share personal experiences with Addison’s disease or Cushing’s disease n your pet below.

We appreciate any feedback that other pet parents will find useful!

22 Comments on “Addison’s Disease in Dogs – Adrenal Gland Imbalance”

  1. CBD or Hemp oil seems to be all the rage lately for all kinds of things, but I’m still skeptical and am on a wait and see with regards to CBD oil. It’s also illegal according to the DEA, but this is under controversy as well. I think the balanced diet plan is ideal to treat and prevent problems in people and our animals. Herbs and essential fatty acids provide very powerful treatments and prevention when used in a diet on a regular basis. Thank you for showing such love for our pets.

    1. Lots of confusion surround CBD oil and Hemp oil for sure…legality, usage, and effectiveness are all questions people have and there is a lot of misinformation floating around.   I believe we’ll get clarity in the US on much of this within the next year.  UK may take longer.

  2. Thank you for sharing this very important information about Addison’s. I did not even know this was a “thing.” But I guess dogs, like their masters, can have problems with stress.

    When you said that some natural treatments include borage and licorice, did you mean, like the licorice that people eat—the candy? Red or black?

    My old dog—Victoria, who was a Heinz 57 made up of mostly Border Collie—lived to be 18. She was the best dog I ever had. She lived a long and healthy life. Do you see Addison’s more in purebreds or in mixed breeds? I hear about a lot of problems related to specific breeds, but my mixed breeds never seem to have those problems.

    We recently adopted a new fur baby—another mixed breed— so I will keep my eyes open for any signs of this disease now that I know about it and know what the symptoms are.

    1. Great to see you here-thanks for checking out the article.  Licorice root extract is the supplement that be a benefit to pets with Addison’s disease.  It usually come in liquid drop form (tincture) and as a powder in capsules.

      I think, in general, purebred dogs (because of their genetic fine-tuning) are predisposed to autoimmune conditions. 

  3. While I am a great dog lover, I regret that until now I did not know anything about Addison’s disease or even Cushing’s disease.  You’ve really provided an education.  My current dog is not a female or a breed you list as most susceptible. I’ll keep alert for any of the symptoms you have noted and come back to you to recheck the remedies if they appear.  I’ve bookmarked the page and will keep in touch for dog matters.  You look like a great reference.  Thanks a lot.

    Best regards,


  4. I have 3 older dogs, which is why  this article grabbed my attention!

    I was so very pleased to see that you mentioned Hemp Seed Oil, you can take that treatment a stpe further and go full on CBD with your dog as well. They both contain a perect balance of omega 3 and 6, and many vitamins and the CBD offers even more like calmness, and relaxation. If your fur baby is stressed this will help for sure!

    Not enough people take proper care of their pets, so I think these articles are so wonderful and helpful to many pet owners!

    Thank you so much for the wonderful information about Addison’s disease and what to watch for. My dogs’ breed is on the list so I have to be aware of this, and now I am!

  5. It’s really frustrating since I’ve noticed a lot of the side effects are similar for most of the diseases out there that mainly dogs get. I understand that dehydration could be a cause for a mistaken diagnosis of kidney disease rather than Addison’s disease. I appreciate your holistic approach and suggestions, as vet and shot expenses are outrageous in my country. Anyway, we’ll keep monitoring, thank you.

  6. I noticed that labrador retrievers are on your list for dogs that are more highly at risk for this disease. My dog is a golden retriever and I know they are closely related to labradors. So is she more at risk? Are there any preventative measures you might recommend?

    Also how do you go about giving your dog turmeric? Would you just include it in the homemade food or something?

    1. The breeds I listed as some dogs that see more cases is a very slight statistical chance over other dogs.  Addison’s disease can affect all breeds, ages, and genders so I don’t think you need to worry any more than if she was any other type of dog,  Addison’s Disease (lower hormones) is far less common than Cushing’s Disease (elevated hormones and cortisol).

      As far as turmeric…there’s two types.  First turmeric the food/spic is the awesome stuff we put in curry ans Asian food to give that luxurious golden yellow color..and a unique flavor.

      Curcumin which is the active ingredient in Turmeric is the extract that is use for medicinal purposes.  They both are from the same plant root (Turmeric) which is related to the ginger family.

      Curcumin is know to have excellent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.

  7. I really love this article Adrenal Gland imbalance. The more I read the more I learn I really enjoyed all the information you gave on how to recognize the symptoms of Addison’s disease imbalance. Just like I didn’t know that it occurred in females more than it did males. So if the symptoms normally occur between the age ranges of 4 to 7 years old is it possible to happen later on in a dog’s life.

     I really love this informative article I appreciate all the good information thank you very much.

    1. Female dogs between 4-7 years old are slightly the majority however Addison’s Disease can affect any dog breed and both genders at any age. The older a dog gets if it isn’t getting a healthy diet will be more at risk as well.

  8. Wow, very well organized and informative article! I loved all the information and detail you gave such as the breeds at risk, signs of this disease and treatment. I personally have a German Shepard myself and our family is always looking out for her health, it’s great to see websites like yours putting out information like this to help dog owners keep their dogs safe! Have you ever had any dogs with this disease? I really hope not, thanks again for the great article!

  9. Hello Tim,

    I didn´t know that dogs could suffer from Addison´s disease. Thank you for sharing this important information. 

    My pet is a Jack Russel Terrier. I noticed that his breed is not in your list. Does it mean that with a proper diet and care he probably will not suffer  from this disease or reallly any dog could get Addison´s disease?

    1. Addison’s is rare to begin with…it’s cousin disease Cushing’s (another adrenal imbalance condition) is far more common.  

      A health well-balance diet…and overall proper nutrition goes a long way in prevention of this and many other diseases.  

      Be sure not to over-vaccinate your Jack Russel…and ask your vet if she thinks it o.k. to just stick to the “core” vaccines.

  10. I didn’t know that over vaccinations can cause adrenal gland imbalance in dogs. How do you know the amount of vaccinations your dog should get before it becomes to much? 

    Is that something I would have to discuss with a veterinarian beforehand? Should I bring up concerns about adrenal gland imbalance with them?

    1. Over-vaccination is a definite problem in veterinary medicine.  But immunization is important to protect your pet.  

      Definitely have a conversation with your vet on sticking with the “Core” vaccines.  The AAHA (American Animal Hospital Association) has a great vaccination guideline…you can check it out here.

      Also there are pretests available for imbalance in the adrenals…if you see symptoms or suspect your dogs is at risk I would ask your vet about that as well.

  11. Its always worrying when your best friend gets sick.  Thank you for your really well researched article on Addison’s disease.  I have been fortunate enough to have escaped this one, and most of the dogs I have had have lived to a ripe old age. 

    I am sure the mongrel type dogs have stronger constitutions though, as we have only ever had mongrels and they just never seem to get sick.

  12. Poor poor puppies.  Any dog owner can tell pretty quick if their dog isn’t feeling good.  Too many people take pet ownership for granted and dont really take care of their dogs like they should.  Dogs are a member of your family and should be treated as so, I had never heard of this disease before.  It is great that it can be treated.  Dogs are so much fun when they are healthy.  Thank you for more knowledge.  This was a great read for me and should be for many others as well.

  13. A lot of great information on Addison’s disease in dogs. We have a small dog and he often starts to vomit for no reason. I have gotten him checked out, but so far have received no diagnosis. They say he is fit as a fiddle.

    But I now know what to look for as well what to ask the vet about  in regards to his ongoing issues. I see that CBD and Hemp Oil are really makes waves in the health industry which is great. As I have personally used Hemp oil for myself and have seen the healing benefits of it.

    It’s pretty amazing that these types of oils can be used for animals as well. My daughter is an animal lover, a future veterinarian is what she calls. She is very interested in healing animals with natural products.

    Great write up on some really useful healing products for animals.

    1. Hey Jag- thanks for reading….and sorry to hear of the mystery condition with your dog.  Did your vet do any specific testing for the vomiting?   Does he vomit up his food?  or is he throwing up bile…which is watery yellow-green stuff?  This would make a difference in his issue.  I hope you get some answer soon.

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