Holistic diagnosis and management of pets with Addison’s Disease

Might Vanya be predisposed to Addison's?

Addison’s Disease and your pet

When your beloved pet is sick, you want to help, fast. But finding reliable information is remarkably tricky, especially on the net.

That’s when I can help, with informative blogs you can trust to be accurate and written by an experienced professional (me!). These posts are not designed to be comprehensive reviews, but discussions on commonly encountered problems, and my take on them. Most topics are inspired by clinical cases from my practice or my own experiences.

Addison’s Disease is a case in point. I have been an owner of Standard Poodles for many years and this condition is one of our breed’s biggest problems.

What is Addison’s Disease?

Addison’s Disease results in under-active adrenal glands resulting from HYPO-adrenocorticism (Addison’s). This is a critical (and potentially life-threatening) dis-ease.

Adrenal glands and hormone production

Adrenal glands are two bean-sized glands that secrete a number of very important hormones. Deficiency or excess of any one of these hormones can be life-altering for your pet, with dogs affected much more often than cats).

Several hormones produced by the adrenal gland help animals respond appropriately to stress. The ability to fight or take flight is primarily controlled by adrenal hormones. Animals with Addison’s dis-ease have a deficiency of one or more of these.

The adrenal hormones are produced in various parts of the adrenal gland. Depending on the part of the gland that has been most damaged, one or two main hormones may be deficient (gluco and/or mineralo corticoid).

The most commonly known of these hormones is Cortisol. It is a steroid hormone that helps manage the body’s defense mechanisms. Cortisol is a potent ANTI-inflammatory, and as such, steroids are commonly prescribed to help slow and even stop natural healing processes.

Addison’s disease: symptoms and diagnosis

Pets with Addison’s show their symptoms in many different ways, including anything from vague loss of appetite and periods of weakness to acute collapse and even sudden death.

These patients often have the “ADR” (Ain’t Doin’ Right) syndrome and vague clinical presentations. Screening blood and urine tests are needed to make an accurate diagnosis in these and most sick pets. They help determine what’s happening internally.

Most commonly, Addisonian patients often have an imbalance in the blood electrolytes of sodium and potassium, although occasionally, they are “atypical” and do not. In these cases, the diagnosis is less clear. My patient Ghenghis was a great example of this atypical Addisonian. Ghenghis had started skipping his breakfast and having bouts of weakness, but had normal sodium and potassium.

A definitive diagnosis of under-active adrenals is usually confirmed with a blood test that stimulates the release of steroid hormones from the adrenal glands (the ACTH stimulation test). This is how we diagnosed Genghis.

Addison’s disease: treatments

The class of adrenal-produced hormones deficient in pets with Addison’s disease is often mainly the mineralocorticoids. These are critical for maintenance of the normal stress response and greatly influence the balance of fluids and electrolytes in the body. Fluorinef and Percorten are the synthetic replacement hormones most commonly used.

Conventional management of the Addisonian patient often includes both corticosteroids and mineralocorticoid hormones. Fluorinef, Percorten and prednisone are used to replace the hormones that are deficient and to manage the disease, but they do not address the underlying cause.

The side-effects of these synthetic mineralocorticoids pale compared to those of prednisone and other glucocorticoids. Using them to manage Addisonian patients is critical.

However, daily doses of steroids such as prednisone are typically not as critical, as these drugs cause excess drinking and urinating, eating, predisposition to infections, skin changes, diabetes, etc. Often the administration of prednisone (or other corticosteroids) can be minimized and limited to times of stress.

Addison’s disease: management

Addisonian patients need to be closely monitored. Further adrenal destruction often occurs during the natural course of the disease because the underlying process is usually not being addressed. This worsening is often managed with increasing doses of drugs. Fortunately though, the veterinary homeopath can often help minimize progression of the Addisons.

In my experience, the very best way to both prevent and manage this potentially life-threatening problem is with homeopathic constitutional prescribing. It is often helpful to also use judicious supplementation. In my practice I often use the excellent Hepato Support product from Rx Vitamins for pets and DMG (dimethylglycine) in referral cases that have already been on prednisone (or similar corticosteroids). I also often add Pet GO nutritional glandular support and Trace Animinerals from Pets Friend.

Of utmost importance in the management of these and most sick patients is a fresh food diet, and mental and physical stimulation.

Vaccinations and Addison’s Disease

At the molecular level, anti-bodies directed against the adrenal glands can be found, and glandular destruction is often caused by auto-antibodies. Regular vaccinations create many different types of antibodies, including ones that can attack the adrenal as well as other critical glands and organs. Other glandular destructions, such as those responsible for hypothyroidism and Diabetes Mellitus are also auto-antibody mediated processes.

Some of us have asked a very important and controversial question about these facts – how might vaccination effect the disease process that results in Addison’s? Might Addison’s never develop if you don’t vaccinate? Possibly.

Vaccination is not the only cause for auto-antibody production, and other factors like genetics and environmental toxins play an important role. However, unlike the many other factors involved in gland and organ dysfunction, vaccination is totally under your control.

Because of the known risk for auto-antibody associated diseases, I personally do not vaccinate my pets, except as required by law. I also do not use homeopathic “vaccines” (nosodes) and prefer to rely on fostering a strong immune system to prevent infectious diseases like Lyme, Parvo and Distemper.

Veterinary homeopaths both manage dis-eased Addisonian patients and address the underlying auto-antibody production and glandular destruction at the same time. We thereby help maximize your Addisonian pet’s length and quality of life.

Get the best of both worlds by adding a well-trained and experienced vet homeopath to your vet care team. Join my holistic pet care community to get more information and to gain free access to my upcoming webinars.

Be well.

Dr. Jeff


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