Bella needs lifelong Addison’s disease treatment — stop ‘crisis’

Q: My dog was really sick last weekend and was diagnosed with Addison’s disease at the ER. Bella is doing great now, but they said that she’ll need treatment for life. Even after their explanation, I’m confused and still scared for her. Can you help?

E.S., Farragut

A: Understandably, this is a lot of information to absorb at one time and a stressful situation. I’m glad to hear Bella is doing well now. As with most medical conditions, client education and understanding is important, as she will require lifelong treatment.

Let’s start with the basics. Hypoadrenocorticism, also known as Addison’s disease, is a disease of the adrenal glands. Adrenal glands sit right above the kidneys and produce various hormones and chemicals.

In dogs affected with Addison’s disease, the adrenals do not produce enough of the natural steroids that the body needs. In early stages of the disease, there may be intermittent vomiting, diarrhea and/or lethargy. Conversely, some dogs will become acutely and severely ill, which sounds like may have happened with Bella. This is called an Addisonian crisis, and we want to prevent that from recurring.

As you now know, treatment requires replacing these steroids. Bella will continue her oral and injectable medications for life, as her body is not able to produce them any longer.

For the next few months, you will be having frequent visits to your veterinarian for bloodwork monitoring. Once Bella is stable, bloodwork intervals will decrease with time but will always be necessary.

Best wishes to you and Bella.

For questions, e-mail Dr. Myers at