What is the prognosis for a dog living with Addison’s disease? Could the limping in her hind legs be related to the disease?

Original Question: Macey has Addison’s disease. She has had it since she was 4 and is 10 now. Just curious of what to expect as she ages and how this disease will progress. We were told we would be lucky if we got her to 8 years. She has slowed down considerably in last year and is starting to limp a bit with back legs. She is on Florinef. - Nancy

What is the prognosis for a dog living with Addison’s disease? Could the limping in her hind legs be related to the disease? May 14, 2018

Hi Nancy,

Thanks for your question.

The first thing to mention is that the prognosis for dogs with hypoadrenocorticism is excellent. Long-term prognosis for large breed dogs may not be as good solely due to the expense of mineralocorticoid treatment. Some owners may consider euthanasia under those circumstances. It’s important for veterinarians to attempt to wean the dose down to the lowest possible to help with cost as this is the most common cause of death in Addisonian dogs. Dogs can live out a long life with Addison’s disease if the disease is well managed. The key to successful long-term management is owner education. You’ll want to respond rapidly to any changes in your pet’s general well-being. Addison’s disease is all about balance and for various reasons, this fine balance can begin to tilt out of place. This results in symptoms such as weakness, lethargy, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or other issues. These are indicators that you have to seek medical attention, perform some tests and modify the treatment or dosage of medication to resolve the problem. These tests should be done regularly even when your dog is doing well so that you can track any changes that are occurring slowly over time.

There is another issue you mention in your question. This issue about the hind legs is interesting to me. The way you mention it I believe you think this is an issue either related to Addison’s or it’s just your dog getting older. This is not a good way to think. It’s very possible that this could be something like arthritis that is developing. Regardless of exactly what the cause is, it’s very important that you determine the cause. You need to understand it so that it does not interfere with your ability to assess any changes in the control of Addison’s, not to mention that it may very well be treatable. I’ll give an example to highlight how important it is not to make assumptions. What if it is simple arthritis which is common at your dog’s age and it progresses to a point that your dog’s mobility becomes seriously impaired. If you jump to conclusions, you may think it is present because of Addison’s disease and so you begin to consider euthanasia thinking the disease process is at an advanced or end state. This would be unfortunate if the problem is resolved by using simple arthritis medication. So my strong advice is to take nothing for granted, diagnose and address any health concern, along with routine testing to assess your treatment success and I think you will achieve an extremely favourable prognosis. There are so many factors that affect the prognosis of this disease that I believe the advice you were given was pretty poor. You should have been told how you could impact and control the prognosis rather than it controlling you.

Hopefully this helps. Good luck.

Dr. Greenway

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