Herbal Remedies for Canine Addison’s Disease

Although there is no herbal cure for canine Addison’s disease, there are several herbal supplements than can help lower your dog’s need for steroids and improve their overall health status. Lowering your dog’s need for DOCP and/or Florinef not only means a lower chance of side effects for your pet, but also can make a huge difference in your pocketbook. This article outlines the major herbal and plant remedies for Addison’s disease.

Types of herb

Many herbs have been shown to be beneficial for adrenal function, including adrenal support herbs like licorice and borage, Green tea, and ginseng, which can help to reduce stress—an important part of treatment for Addison’s disease.

Borage oil, primrose oi, and black currant oil
These oils are all natural sources of Gammalinolenic acid, which promotes healthy skin and, according to RM Clemmons, DVM, Ph.D, Associate Professor of Neurology & Neurosurgery in the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences at the University of Florida, who states that the oils may also be good for autoimmune disorders. Dr. Clemmons recommends adding 500mg of oil once a day for small/medium breeds and twice a day for larger breeds, noting that it could take six to eight weeks to notice a difference.

Ginkgo leaves
Ginkgo leaf extracts increase blood flow to the brain. The cause of secondary Addison’s disease is a malfunctioning pituitary gland. Ginkgo is not toxic to dogs. Dr. Clemmons recommends one capsule two times a day.

American Ginseng According to Shannon Wikinson, writing in Whole Dog Journal, ginseng is “an adaptogenic herb that helps the body adapt to environmental and emotional stressors.” Ginseng works on the pituitary and adrenal glands, increasing resistance to stress. Dr. Clemmons recommends that male dogs over the age of 6-years-old be given American ginseng (not Oriental), in the amount of one capsule daily, and females over six years old should receive one or two capsules of Dong quai, a plant in the carrot family that has been called the “female ginseng”, instead of American Ginseng. Neither of these supplements is recommended for use in young dogs under the age of 6-years-old (male) or 5-years-old (female).

Flower essences

Dr. Ivin, a Chinese medicine practitioner (as quoted by Wilkinson), uses flower essences to reduce stress and limit the need for additional glucocorticoids.

Green Tea
Addison’s dogs often have low energy levels. One cup of green tea a day (or one single capsule) should be added to food, according to Dr. Clemmons. As well as increasing energy, Dr. Clemmons calls it a “good general tonic.”

Licorice
A team of researchers in New Zealand studied the effects of a licorice (liquorice) supplement in one dog taking oral fludrocortisone acetate (Florinef). Despite receiving Florinef, the 4-year-old neutered male suffered from persistent hyperkalemia (high amounts of potassium in the bloodstream). After receiving licorice from the root of Glycyrrhiza glabra, which contains glycyrrhizinic acid and glycyrrhetinic acid, both of which increase mineralocorticoid activity, the dog’s potassium levels returned to normal. More research is underway: if you live in New Zealand, contact Richard Squires or Liz Norman at Massey University for details of the trial.

Caution,

No herbal supplement can replace DOCP, prednisone, or Florinef. If your dog is on these medications, consult with your veterinarian while giving your dog herbal supplements–this is especially true of Licorice. You will want to keep a close eye on electrolyte levels as well as your dog’s overall health.

References:
RM Clemmons, Liquorice and canine Addison’s disease, New Zealand Veterinary Journal 53(3), 214, 2005
Wilkinson, S.The Great Pretender. Whole Dog Journal, 2003

20 thoughts on “Herbal Remedies for Canine Addison’s Disease

  1. Liz

    My dog has been diagnosed with Addison’s disease and I am looking for a natural supplement to replace her steroids/Percortin-V, as it is too expensive. I am curious about the Oils, Ginko, & Ginseng. Would you recommend these products individually for an adaquete cure, or do you recommend them all together for best effect?

    1. admin

      Liz, unfortunately I wouldn’t recommend them as a replacement. Percortin-V is expensive, yeah, but it can’t really be replaced by supplements alone. Stephanie

  2. Liz

    As I’ve continued to research as best I can, it seems you are correct :) and :(
    I am finding the only hope for lessening the cost is to lessen the amount she needs…with the help of supplements.
    Does this sound correct?
    And would you ever reccomend dosing the Percortin every other month instead of monthly or could this be very harmful?

  3. Tom

    DOCP is needed within a 28 day period or somewhat less (depending on your dog). I am also incurring the monthly cost of Percorten V, but failure to do so most likely will lead to an event that will require the vet and even great expense.

  4. Abel Ruiz

    The generic FLUDROCORTISONE compounded is very inexpensive even if you have a large dog. Some dogs do not respond as well so i belive you can combine like just enough DOCP to get in range.

  5. Judy March

    My 11 year old spayed bitch, has extreme weakness in her legs, low potassium and high sodium, vet is doing more blood work for Addison’s. If this is the diagnosis, will prednisone or other meds help the leg weakness? right now she can not get up on her own and cries when she attempts to lay down. This is the longest 72 hours over a weekend waiting for help.

  6. Gemma

    My dog Biggles has Addisons disease and over the year in which this illness has been diagnosed his health has decreased rapidly! He now shakes constantly until he sleeps, he drinks SO much water and then consquently and is losing control of his bladder, which is just horrible to see, his coat has lost its shine and he has constant itches and red sores around his hock and elbow area and flacky skin, he has always had an average weight of 15kg and now he is again going through a spell of not eating and his spin and rib cage is all on show. After taking him to the vets yesterday they are now getting an elecrolite test and Diabetes test done, but they actually didn’t weigh him. Its been just over one year now that this has been diagnosed and I’m looking at your above comments and thinking perhaps the herbal could help along with electro lite tests and improvement from the herbal to stimulate appetite? and improve anxious shaking?

    1. kenrosellc

      Unfortunately, this could be a myriad of things, including too much prednisone. I wish you the best of luck with Biggles’ diagnosis.

      Stephanie

    2. Bev

      My 7 year old Chihuahua/mix was diagnosed this Thanksgiving with Addison’s. She is taking prednisone every other day and shots once a month. She started acting ALIVE after the first dosages BUT she has been losing hair in clumps. My vet said to buy “Canine Whole Body Support.” I just bought it on Amazon and she seems to like it. It’s a powder form in a capsule. Under 20 lbs. you give them 1/2 capsule 2 times a day. I’m hoping it will bring back the luster and stop shedding like crazy! The shots and prednisone has stopped her symptoms of shaking, vomiting, lack of appetite, and she is back to acting like a happy and active dog again! Does anyone else have a suggestion for her horrible hair loss? I bathe her once a week with “de-furminator” shampoo and conditioner, and also 2 different medicated shampoos. One is an antiseptic/antifungal shampoo and an antiparasitic/antiseborrheic shampoo. I really don’t know what to use but I’m willing to try ANYTHING! PLEASE does anyone have any other suggestions?

      1. angela melendez

        unfortunately i am having the same problem with athena chewing constantly ay her hind end and the base of her tail until she is bloody with sores and i keep cutting the fur away to keep it clean and i medicate it with a&d ointment and some neosporin in the really bad spots she gets precortinv every month and prednisone ass needed however lately she has needed a bit more prednisone…i am wondering if i cut the dosage of the prednisone in half if that may help with her constant itching and chewing on her hind end? does anyone have any suggestions to stop this godawful itching and chewing? she is now almost bald on her ghind end and i just want to make this stop so she can be more comfortable

        1. kenrosellc

          Angela,

          Cutting the dose in half could be a bit drastic. I would cut it by a quarter at first and keep a close eye on her behavior (look out for the shakes or signs of depression/lethargy). If all seems well in about a month reduce the dose by another quarter.

          That’s basically what I did for Shakti. She’s now on 2.5mg/day. She was on 20mg! And she’s doing great.

          good luck,
          Stephanie

    3. bill

      My dog had tremors. He’s a West Highland Terrier. I supplemented him with Magnesium and the shaking disappeared.

    4. Helen Jones

      I feel sorry, reading your post as I have been through a similar experience with our family dog and it is not a happy journey. Our dog is on Prednisone which does control the shaking but it makes him ravenous and he eats everything he can find, even scrounging in the teenagers’ rooms which he never would have done before. Not only that but he has very low energy, has lost much hair, has sores and scales on his skin. We have varied the dosage but it is a fine balance with no great outcome. Our dog is only six and he seems like a very old dog. It breaks my heart to see him sad and uncomfortable but he does enjoy his slow walks and getting love from the family. Good Luck but don’t expect a cure. Just try to keep your dog as comfortable as possible.

    5. Al Fury

      It sounds to me like you are not treating the Addison’s with the known medecines that work . Are you trying to save money by looking for herbs. You need to give the dog Percortin every month and prednisone every day.Your dog is suffering needlessly. These are the same symtoms that my dog had until I put him on the above regimin.

      1. kenrosellc

        Al,

        The herbs are supplements, not replacements for Florinef or Percorten. For example, lowering stress levels can lead to a lower needed dose of prednisone.

        Thanks for stopping by,
        Stephanie

    6. angela melendez

      my athena was just recently diagnosed and she had a horrible time with her electrolytes as well so i bought some childrens pedialyte to supplement in her water and the vet told me that it is a good idea to add a little bit of it to her water as well as supplementing her with fresh liver in her food to help with the anemic problems associated with addisons disease,try that and see if it helps your precious one

  7. Pamela

    Roxie was sick a year ago April and diagnosed with Addisons. Since then we have been doing the monthly shot as well as the 5mg pill everyday. She drinks a lot of water but I found if I put a lot of ice cubes in it it tends to slow down the drinking and she doesn’t have to go out side at night. She has been thru the hair loss and antibiotics for bacteria infection. This we did two weeks at a time for several months and I have to bath her 2 times a week in an antibacterial shampoo as well as give her fish oil pills which did put the shine back in her coat.
    She has gained over 20 lbs. which my vet is happy about but now we are trying to keep her from gaining any more.
    It has been a scary time but as I read more about and under stand the disease it seems to give me a little more calmness about it. She has over the months took spells where she panted really fast and I just read where that is one of the side effects of the pill she takes and I need to cut it back a little. So I will be giving her 5gm one day and 2.5 the next. I already talked to my Vet and he said that would be ok. Hope this helps someone to know that it does get better. This is my first sick dog so I am learning as I go too.

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