Does your dog have anxiety — or is it something much worse? For us, it was Addison’s disease.

Wrigley had her quirks — and we loved every one of them. But were her quirks signs for something more serious?

Wrigley’s favorite command was “bed time.” She got anxious when one of us went out of town. And she had to approve of another dog coming too close to her little sister, Elphie — that always made her nervous, too.

She had her quirks — and we loved every one of them.

But her quirks might’ve been signs for something more serious.

Hindsight is always 20/20, isn’t it?

‘The Great Pretender’

Addison’s disease is a chronic disease where the adrenal glands fail to produce sufficient hormones that play a large role in regulating your dog’s internal organs and body systems. Without them, it can become fatal.

But it can be hard to diagnose Addison’s disease. The symptoms look like a lot of other issues, and can be seen as multiple different issues rather than one diagnosis.

Elphie and Wrigley

For example, dogs with Addison’s will not be able to produce enough cortisol to deal with anxiety. Your dog might not show other symptoms and you might just think a stressful situation causes them some anxiety. It sounds normal — but it might not be.

According to the American Kennel Club, symptoms of Addison’s disease include:

  • Depression
  • Lethargy
  • Lack of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Bloody stools
  • Hair loss
  • Increased urination
  • Increased thirst
  • Dehydration
  • Shaking
  • Weak pulse
  • Irregular heart rate
  • Low temperature
  • Painful abdomen
  • Hypoglycemia
  • Hyperpigmentation of the skin

Many dogs develop Addison’s disease between the ages 4-6.

Wrigley’s story

Friday morning I took Wrigley to our usual vet because she wasn’t eating, was throwing up and had become very lethargic. The vet asked a series of questions, ran some tests and took a few X-rays.

He said her bloodwork wouldn’t be back until the morning but that it was likely irritable bowel and anxiety. He sent us home with a few pills and instructions to call back in the morning.

Later that night, I took Wrigley and her sister outside to go to the bathroom.

She collapsed.

After rushing her to an emergency vet, the vet redid the same tests done that morning but got the results right away. It was Addison’s disease and she was having an Addisonian crisis.

Elphie and Wrigley

For most dogs, this means a vet is required to get the disease back in control. They are then put on medicine and can live long happy lives.

A number of dogs aren’t even diagnosed with Addison’s disease until one of they have a crisis.

But for Wrigley, that wasn’t the case.

A small number of dogs with Addison’s disease also have clotting issues. Wrigley was one of these few.

Wrigley died later that night.

Looking back

Should we have known that her continued list of things that made her anxious was a sign of something more serious? Should we have realized that her laziness wasn’t just her being lazy?

No. She was happy and excitable right up until the end. There was no way we would’ve known.

But that doesn’t mean other’s can’t be more cautious.

A blood test can tell pet owners results before you start seeing all the symptoms. Wrigley’s sister will be getting it done when she turns four. And we’ll have every dog in our family tested from here on out.

I encourage all owners (who are able) to get this test, even if your dog has only one or two symptoms. Wrigley seemed to be simply lazy and anxious — but it wasn’t that simple.


Help raise awareness and support Canine Addison’s Resources & Education (CARE) through its online shop.

*Editor’s note: Please excuse any editing errors or spelling mistakes. This was an emotional post to write.

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