Dog Addison's Disease (Hypoadrenocorticism)

What is Dog Addison's Disease?

Hypoadrenocorticism – the correct term for Addison’s – is caused by the adrenal glands, situated near the kidneys, failing to secrete enough glucocorticoid (primarily cortisol) and mineralocorticoid (primarily aldosterone) hormones. In the majority of cases both types of hormone are affected. Less commonly the problem is not with the adrenal glands but with the pituitary gland. These atypical cases may be due to secondary Addison’s – affecting only the pituitary or hypothalamus – or occur because the areas of the adrenal glands producing glucocorticoids only or primarily have been affected.

In some dogs with Hypoadrenocorticism there will be acute collapse, while in others symptoms come on gradually and may wax and wane, so that the owner is not really aware how sick the dog was until treatment shows a significant improvement. 85 or 90% of adrenal hormone reserves have to have been depleted before a dog will show clinical signs, and usually some stress then triggers the onset of illness. Lack of glucocorticoids can produce loss of appetite; vomiting; lethargy/depression; weakness; weight loss; diarrhea; blood in the stool (melena); shivering; increased urination and drinking; as well as abdominal pain.

Addison’s disease can affect dogs of any age, but usually is found in young to middle-aged and female dogs. Some dog breeds are at higher risk of Addison's Disease, including:

  • Airedale terrier
  • Basset hound
  • Bearded collie
  • Great Dane
  • Nova Scotia duck tolling retriever
  • Portuguese water dog
  • Rottweiler
  • Soft-coated wheaten terrier
  • Springer spaniel
  • Standard poodle
  • St. Bernard
  • West Highland White terrier
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